Summary: (4/5 stars) The third book on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is “A classic of genre fiction,” and after scrolling through their list of suggestions, I decided this would be a good one to pick up. Everyone is probably familiar with the story because the movie is superfamous. The book is pretty much the same with a few additional details. I wish it weren’t so familiar because the book is really well put together and it would probably be a thrill to experience the story for the first time through this book.
SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, I’m going to discuss this book without any concern about spoilers. So, if you don’t like spoilers you should stop reading now.
The Exorcist tells the story of a single mom whose daughter comes down with a mysterious and distressing set of symptoms and a priest who has lost his faith. Secondarily, there’s a detective who is trying to solve a mysterious murder and a school of Jesuits trying to solve the mystery of some desecrations. It turns out that the daughter is possessed and is somehow behind the desecrations and the murder. The mother calls in lots of specialists and ultimately decides to consult the priest who is losing his faith. He isn’t sure what is going on, but is eventually convinced to ask for an exorcism. An older priest who has fought this demon before turns up and he dies of a heart attack in the process of the exorcism. This frustrates the demon who wanted to beat the older priest at his game. And the demon infuriates the younger priest who allows the demon to possess him and then kills himself, saving the girl and stopping the desecrations.
Horror isn’t my usual jam; I tend to find it too gross or too miserable for my taste. I like thrillers and scary things, but I want the heroes to live. Horror is not that. So, I’m maybe not the ideal audience for a book like this. But the ending of the book is surprisingly happy. The girl lives. The young priest dies, but seems to recover his faith in the end. The demon is thwarted and left dissatisfied.
There are a couple of loose ends in the book. It’s not clear to me when or how the girl is doing the desecrations. The brief background of the older priest and the demo in Iraq don’t seem to add a lot to the story, in my opinion. The mom doesn’t really seem healed or really changed by this experience; she still has all of her hang ups and insecurities.
On a totally unrelated note, this book does allude to the Manson Family, which was the topic of the last book I read for the challenge. This book was written not long after that, so it’s no surprise. But I found it interesting to see how they both sit in that place in time.
As mentioned in the summary, I really wish I could have come at this book fresh and without all the history of the movies in my mind. I think it would have been really interesting to experience the thrill and horror of this story without knowing what’s coming.
But overall, it’s a solid read. Not very long. Well-constructed.