by William Peter Blatty
More rooted in logic was the silence of God.
Chris, successful Hollywood leading lady, lives with a couple of servants and her 12-year-old daughter, Regan. When Regan starts acting in wildly inappropriate ways, medical doctors and psychologists put her through batteries of tests to no avail. Regan’s condition worsens, to the point she’s injuring herself and others, and Chris’s desperation to save her daughter reaches fever pitch. Eventually, with Regan clinging to her last few ounces of life and medical explanations exhausted, Chris turns to the church for aid.
But it’s not that simple. Father Karras meets Chris and wants to help, initially employing the same explanations the doctors offered. As he tries to rationalize the things he sees, Karras wavers back and forth between belief and skepticism. Arguing with himself, he gathers evidence he knows he’ll need if and when he decides to ask the church for permission to perform an exorcism.
The book’s filled with exceptionally strong characters, even when they have relatively little space on the page. Detective Kinderman is a kind of Columbo character, baffled and shrewd. Father Dyer and Father Marrin occupy unyielding space in the story, and Chris herself is the picture of strength slowly siphoned away, leaving her with nothing but terror.
And terror’s what the book’s known for, despite the author’s admission he was trying to write a story of faith. He accomplished his goal, just a great deal more. The Exorcist might be known as a book of horror, but it is a book of faith, a story of the deeply religious doing everything they can to help in an impossible situation and at great personal cost—bellowing blowhards these are not. Father Karras, Father Dyer, Father Marrin, I would like to have known you.
There exists no man, woman or child (or mineral or vegetable) who has not heard of The Exorcist. Most of the story’s fame is derived from the film, and that’s unfortunate. It’s a good movie, scary, and deserving of its place in history, but it just doesn’t approach the virtuosity of the novel. The book benefits greatly by tying the reader to its quietly stoic characters with our intimate knowledge of their thoughts.
Yes, it has worldwide fame. But have you read it? If not, hopefully you’re considering it. The Exorcist is one of the greatest works of horror (and faith) ever penned.
Opening the door, the detective stepped outside, put on his hat and turned back to look at Chris. “Well, good luck with your daughter,” he said.
Chris smiled wanly. “Good luck with the world.”