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A Head Full of Ghosts

Narrated by: Joy Osmanski
Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
4.1 out of 5 stars (88 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror, reminiscent of Stephen King's The Shining, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist.

The lives of the Barretts, a suburban New England family, are torn apart when 14-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia. To her parents' despair, the doctors are unable to halt Marjorie's descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend. Fifteen years later a best-selling writer interviews Marjorie's younger sister, Merry. As she recalls the terrifying events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories begin to surface, and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed.

©2015 Paul Tremblay (P)2016 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic Reviews

" A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I'm pretty hard to scare." (Stephen King, best-selling author)
"Terrific.... Generates a haze of an altogether more serious kind: the pleasurable fog of calculated, perfectly balanced ambiguity." ( The New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about A Head Full of Ghosts

Average Customer Ratings
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  • JD
  • 13-02-2018

Meh

I am struggling to find anything that has come close to Andrew Pypers earlier books. I have no idea what this one was trying to achieve, but by the midway point I was just listening to finish it. It was intriguing, but not the least but scary.

2 people found this helpful

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great story

loved the story but the ending left me wondering and just didn't give me quite enough...

1 person found this helpful

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oh wow

Did make me thing towards the end. And I was also manipulated as much as the other characters.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Not a Horror

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It was a bit confusing at the beginning for one. But the storyline was an interesting one. Is she or isn't she schizophrenic? Is she or isn't she possessed? Is there something else happening that hasn't been touched upon (eg are the voices she hears the dead who are trying to contact the living?) I spent the entire book waiting for the "shock ending" that people mentioned in their reviews, and meh.... It was a good "twist", but it didn't knock me over. And there is no "closure". Is she or isn't she? It's open for interpretation. You think you figure it all out, but still.... Overall, it was a good story. I will probably listen to it again.

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A dark crimson diamond in the rough

an unexpected gem of a story that had well written build up, explored characters and an ending I didn't see coming. highly recommend it.

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Every exorcism cliche in one book

This book was ‘meh’ at best. It uses all the cliches and exorcism tropes to progress its story, but then tries to blame its unoriginality on the characters more than the writer. Nothing new to see here at all. The narrator does the male characters a disservice and makes them sound absurd, which took away any gravitas they had in the story, and many characters feel like they have a key part in the story that will be revealed as important but they ultimately come to nothing. Definitely nothing to, as the cover quote from Stephen King puts it, ‘scare the hell out of you’ here. It’s about as middle of the road as it gets.

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  • JT
  • 21-09-2019

meh

Made me feel anger similar to that from when i read about anti-vax parents online. Not unsettling or scary at all, never put me on the end of my seat, but the last chapter saves it a little.

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Interesting twists and turns.

I really enjoyed this reading. One criticism for a brilliant performance, work on your male voice! Otherwise, as I said, brilliant. As for the story itself, it lacked a lot of true horror or, what makes me frightened anyway. Stephen King gave It high praise so who am I to judge. I just found it to be more of an account of a situation that I found myself easily lost in at times and distant at others. But I sound like I'm criticising too much when I enjoyed the characters and following along with Merry. Action from beginning to end which is a big winner. I wanna hang out with Ken too. Overall, I recommend.

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Excellent

What a fantastic story! It was creepy, funny, and emotional. I can’t wait to see the movie adaptation.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kaggy
  • 30-03-2018

Truly mad and deeply disturbing

This is a brilliant and genuinely disturbing piece of horror fiction skilfully intertwining themes of superstition, religion, mental illness, modern day rationality and the vulnerability of children in an economically beleaguered family.

In the story’s construction the writer is unashamedly influenced by Shirley Jackson and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, with the young heroine, Merry, sharing a similar name to the earlier heroine (Merricat). Like that book this one has a strange out of kilter atmosphere created out the mind of a very wise child. This follows Merry who is 8 years old and in the thrall of her older sister who at 14 years of age is displaying disturbing signs of mental illness. The early scenes where Merry is being cruelly baited by the sister are truly chilling but her trust in her big sister is relentless despite her growing bewilderment and fear. This is a story of a family torn apart by madness and economic misfortune but there is always the question of what is really going on and whose is the head that is full of ghosts.

For those familiar with the Exorcist, the ghastliness of the scenes depicting the apparent possession will hold no surprises but this goes far beyond a straightforward story of good versus evil. There are some bizarre events, including the portrayal of the family’s plight on reality television, but really this is no more crazy than the world we are currently experiencing. Joy Osmanski provides a seamless performance giving a credible voice to Merry as a child and a grown woman. Like Merry you will want to make sense of this story but no matter how thoroughly you analyse this, you will always be left with a head full of unfathomable mystery.

Top marks to this author. He is clearly a man who has tremendous talent and something fresh, new and intelligent to add to this genre.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Tim P.
  • 10-09-2018

A very clever 'haunting'. Pls read whole review...

I'd been recommended Paul Tremblay as an author as I'm a fan of horror and when this and another of his books were in my wish list as well as an audible credit BOGOF deal I jumped in! I start off this review with a couple of negatives, but purely personal views and shouldn't prejudice against a great 'read' so pls read all my (again, personal) thoughts. To get the first monkey off my back, I have to say I wasn't a fan of the narrator when she did 'male' voices. As limited as they were they came across as comical and took the edge of some moments unfortunately. That said, Joy Osmanski did an excellent job of the female characters, even the different voices for the same people i.e. through the ages. The second monkey was that although I really enjoyed this book, i didn't find it scary. I enjoy reading and watching horror, but although they never really give me the frights they hold my suspense, while perhaps feel they lose something for me personally in the audio format. This held me, but if you are similar to me you aren't in for a horrific time... unfortunately. But this was still a great book as you can see from my score. So classing this as a psychological thriller, it holds it's own as we care about characters, what they're going through and how they themselves feel at any given moment. If flits between a 'now and then' storyline but they aren't that far apart (less than 20 years) so we have contemporary view to the situation which makes a nice change for this 'Exorcist' type setting rather than the old, Victorian gothic or mental wards and horrendous medical practices of yesteryear i.e. digital technology, mobile phones, clued up teenagers and a progressive view of mental health. For fans of the horror genre part of the premise may seem overdone, possessed young girl needs an exorcism, but the great thing is the author Paul Tremblay more than eludes to this in the book, almost debunking his own storyline as we go as we follow the perspective of the possessed younger sister as a child and adult. But it never detracts from what he trying to convey. It is a very clever book, well researched and written and never feels like a carbon copy of anything you may have read or watched before. Tremblay's blogging character who reviews the TV show the possession is based on, ironically The Possession, has a great knowledge of films, both horror and filming techniques (which as a media student I appreciated but it didn't go into boring detail) and the classic stories to refer to. Clever, not just in terms of factual detail but how the possessed girl thinks, what she knows, what she makes you think & feel as well as twists along the way. I don't want to give much away, but thoroughly enjoyed it and have The Devils Disappearance lined up in my queue for a soon to be listened to experience. Glad I gave Tremblay a go - thanks audible!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ms T
  • 28-02-2018

A solid ghost story

A good, old-fashioned spooky story which leaves you wondering what to believe and what will happen next after every chapter. Stephen King states this book ‘scared the living hell’ out of him: I wouldn’t go that far but it’s a solid story with an ending I wasn’t expecting.

2 people found this helpful

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  • EllenD
  • 19-05-2017

Chilling!!

I'm not sure what I expected at all but this book was so good! A story of hauntings and exorcism or mental illness....you decide.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jus Shemare
  • 17-12-2016

Haunting

Possible one of the best audio books I've listened to this year. The best stories don't just end, this one I will be thinking about for a while.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Marjorie Barreto-Neto
  • 28-12-2018

Definitely different

Strange book and stranger ending. But it’s nice to not be able to guess the ending. My wife didn’t think the book was scary at all or that interesting but wanted to see where it was going, then didn’t like the ending. It’s not just another exorcism book and either a quasi-brilliant move on the authors part or a huge mistake writing it from that POV interjected with mental illness. Although I can’t see how anyone could not include mental illness with possession affecting persons close to the “possessed,” I don’t actually believe that one can’t exist without the other. I, like Mary, am still trying to figure the whole thing out. One of the shortest reviews I’ve written though I think I’ve given it enough. This one I have to think about before I can do it justice. One thing is you’ll either really like it, or not, understand what and why, or not, ponder it for awhile, or not. At least you might understand this review being informative, or not.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jo
  • 16-08-2018

Disappointed

Nearly gave up on this quite quickly as found the narrator too fast and irritating, however I kept going due to the excellent reviews. I think they listened to a different book! It wasn’t scary and I just didn’t get it!! Supernatural or mental illness...who knows! Don’t bother!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Stephen Amos
  • 10-08-2018

Great story

This is an excellent and very moving story. It's not scary so if you are looking for that you may be disappointed. It moves briskly and the ending really got to me. The only downside for me was the narration. The reader has a great voice however she struggles with male characters. I would have preferred that she not try to put on voices and instead just read the story.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Laura Drohan
  • 20-07-2018

fantastic

I went into this not hoping for much and the only thing I can say is that I wish I'd bought it sooner. brilliant story and brilliant narration.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • The Bookworm
  • 23-10-2020

Not scary at all.

I’ll get straight to the point, I didn’t like this book. It wasn’t entirely the fault of the story, although I did find that to be lacklustre with very little deviation from the well trodden ‘is she possessed or just mad’ trope that has been done so much better in other books. I also hate when the best part of the story unfolds in the last third of the book, especially when you’ve sat though hours of descriptions of people or places, of lonely football games and sun-rooms, I understand the need to set the scene but too much of the story was wasted on relatively little and the ‘meat’, the part of the book I enjoyed the most, the truly tragic end seemed rushed and almost glossed over. The other thing that put me off was the narration. She did the female voices well, with only subtle changes between mum and Marjorie being enough to tell them apart, but the male voices were distracting, her mock deepened voice was off-putting and took me out of the story and after a while became irritating and almost comical. I also saw little relation between young Merry and older Merry, which was surprising considering all she’d been through. Maybe I’m just too thick to get it. Make your own mind up.