A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Both a novel of psychological suspense and genuine supernatural horror, A Head Full of Ghosts is head case of a book…..pardon the pun. I love a book that cleverly uses meta-fiction, and this one definitely refers back to itself in such a funny way, by use of social media. (Speaking of which, there is a funny pic at the very end of this post used on one of the most popular social media sites out there, so keep reading for a good laugh.)

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The advent of reality TV, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the others, has turned us into a society where every moment, thought, insight, and personal experience is documented for an audience of millions of strangers. We get validation for every aspect of our lives when we get likes or follows or retweets. This book takes it to an entirely new level, similar to how social media is used in my previous blog The Last Days of Jack Sparks, but here, it documents not just the possession and mental breakdown of a person, but an entire family.

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The book is the story of 13-year old Merry and her memories of her sister Marjorie’s psychological breakdown and subsequent possession – and the TV crew that documented all of it and relayed it to a television audience of millions. Merry is telling the tale in flashback at the age of 23, and recalls her parents’ terror and frustration at Marjorie’s condition, their increasing dire financial straits, and the questions that inevitably arise from such a horrific combination of scenarios.

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Is Marjorie truly possessed by a demonic force? Is she mentally ill? Is she just playing with their heads? Is it child abuse? What makes this book so addictive is that you are never quite sure what is going on. Is the narrator reliable? Who is wrong and what is right? Perception is reality, but then……what constitutes perception? Age? Seeing only what we want to see?

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It’s not so much horrifying – though it is definitely that – as it is uncomfortable. The unease and terror sneak up on you slowly, gradually, disturbingly, and as I got closer to the end, I found myself racing through the pages to see what was happening. If you’re a fan of psychological terror, supernatural horror, and a well-written story that makes you question your own perceptions, this book will definitely send you on a twisted ride.

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In one early scene, Merry is pondering an odd memory of her parents going away for a rare weekend, and wonders if they are leaving because of Marjorie’s behavior, or because of her own strange preference for pasta.

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“Away was the only word the four-year old me remembered. I had no concept of time or distance. Only that they were away, which sounded so weirdly menacing……..I was convinced they went away because they were sick of my eating pasta without spaghetti sauce. Dad had always grumbled about his not believing that I didn’t like the sauce………”

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I love pasta, but of course, it must have some type of sauce. This passage left quite a bit of leeway for cooking, so I decided linguine in a butter-lemon sauce with a creamy lemon chicken piccata was in order, to scare away all those ghosts in my head. This is the method that worked for me, serving 6 people, based on The Pioneer Woman’s delicious recipe. And yes, with requisite tweaks by me. You’re welcome.

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INGREDIENTS
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, pounded quite thinly (great for stress relief)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 2 whole lemons
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup capers
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
2 lbs fettuccine, or any long pasta of your choice
Fresh parsley for garnishing
Lemon slices for garnishing

METHOD
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the butter and the olive oil. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs, and dredge each one in flour. This is a messy step, so an apron is advised.

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Increase the heat to high, and cook the thighs in the skillet for about 10 minutes on each side. You want them nice and browned. Remove and set aside.

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Saute the shallots and chopped basil for about 5 minutes in the chicken pan juices.

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Lower the heat to medium low, and pour in the broth, the wine, the lemon juice, and the capers. Stir together and simmer for 10 minutes.

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Add back in the browned chicken pieces and pour in the juices they’ve accumulated on their platter. Pour in the capers, cover, and cook on low for 25 minutes.

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Remove the chicken pieces, then pour in the heavy cream, stir together, and taste again. Serve over linguine and garnish with lemon slices.

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We ate this fantastic dish with roasted grape tomatoes and mushrooms, and a gorgeous chocolate mousse cake, in honor of my sister’s birthday.

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As you can see, she is addicted to Snapchat filters. Dork that she is.

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8 thoughts on “A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

  1. The best post ever! I love how you so cleverly wove in the dish to the narrative – the photos were like little clues until it all unfolded at the end. Did you really run over the chicken with the rolling pin? Great idea!!

    My mouth is watering!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. I did indeed bash the hell out of the chicken thighs before cooking – it really is great stress relief and you need relatively thin chicken pieces. I don’t like to use breast meat as it tends to be dry and stringy, so chicken thigh cutlets are the way to go here. Glad you enjoyed the post! The recipe is definitely a keeper – easy but so delicious.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That is such an adorable picture of you and your sister! What an awesome looking cake too. Happy birthday to her! πŸŽ‚

    So, this sounds like a haunting of a book and I wish I could fit it in this month. You’ve introduced so many amazing books to me! The recipe looks like a keeper too. I loved everything about this post!

    I’m not receiving notifications about your posts and wanted you to know that WordPress is being evil to me, lol. I’m going to have to unfollow and follow again to see if it fixes it. It’s happening to a few of my followers as well! So sorry I’m late! πŸ’–πŸ’™πŸ’œπŸŽƒ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had other people tell me the same thing about WordPress, so in your case I have added your email to my notification list that I sent out personally. That way you will get notifications of my new blog posts each week without waiting on WordPress. Sorry about that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I got a few of those! I remember now and wondered if I’d followed by email as well. I didn’t get one this time. I don’t get it. I’ve basically just been trying to visit every few days to check for new posts. Guess it’s a WordPress thing. Hmm. Definitely no need to apologize! I just wanted to let you know. ❀

        I’ll let you know if it happens again. I’m going to refollow right now to see if it helps. πŸ’–πŸ’œ Hope you’ve had a great week so far and that we can chat soon! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I will definitely read this book now due to the menace of social media and your lovely book review. This review was well defined enough to peak my interest to want to read scary, which I don’t read enough of. Thanks for the bump in this direction. It looks like I missed another succulent meal! Ah, one day I will get to taste your exquisite cooking.
    Esther

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Esther. The book is excellent, very well written and definitely creepy. It will make you question what the hell is going on……pardon the pun. πŸ™‚ The social media aspect is a huge part of the plot, which I think you will enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

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