I don’t even know what to say about this book, but it has to be one of my top ten favorites. I absolutely could not put it down, except when I had to put it down to shake off the creepiness. This book is responsible for several nights of nightmares and one weird middle of the night episode where my toddler who never crawls was inexplicably crawling around my bedroom and in my bleary state I really really thought she was possessed.
Marjorie is 14 when she either begins showing symptoms of schizophrenia or demon possession. It’s not clear to the family or the reader which it is – a case could be made either way, and you’ll probably believe one or the other by the end. Her dad lost his job and the family’s financial situation is getting more dire by the day, her mom is firmly in the “schizophrenia” camp, and her little sister Merry is getting lost in the shuffle. The story jumps back and forth between modern day Merry sharing her story with a ghost writer and childhood Merry, who is hands down the most believable child I’ve ever read.
As Marjorie’s symptoms get more and more disturbing, the father reaches out to a Catholic priest, who suggests an exorcism and reaches out to a reality TV show to film a mini series on it. This all makes sense within the context of the family’s financial situation in the book. A crew moves into the house for several weeks and films the exorcism. The Merry chapters are interspersed with posts from a horror blog deconstructing episodes of the show, which pitches theories, points out cultural references, and lends insight into the way the events you just heard about wound up edited for public viewing. This is done very well.
The whole book is done well. It’s terrifying but not exploitative, Merry is the most well drawn eight year old imaginable, and there is genuine uncertainty about what went on with Marjorie. Everyone’s actions make sense in context, with the possible exception of the very end – I’m not sure I love the ending, but I’m still processing it.
I highly recommend this book, and may even end up rereading it soon.