I put off reading Haunted for over a year after a friend lent it to me. Everyone told me it was horrific, disgusting. A sampling of reviews made me wonder why anyone would ever want to read it:

Reading a Palahniuk novel is like getting zipped inside a boxer’s heavy bag while the author goes to work on you, pounding you until there is nothing left but a big bag of bones and blood and pain.”
The Miami Herald

But I did finally read it, and I did like it. Yes, there were a few parts that turned my stomach. But there were a lot more parts that made me laugh. It works very well as a satire of reality tv or a study of ‘the battle for credibility‘ that has resulted from the ease with which one can publish through the use of modern technology.”

Perhaps because my migraines have been rather awful lately, I couldn’t help but compare certain parts of the story to the feeling of having a chronic illness.

The setting of the novel – a theater that becomes a prison where horrible things happen – mirrors an illness, where you’re unable to escape your body, which is doing stomach turning and painful things, and you have to keep on playing at life.

The strange distance the characters have from their bodies and the things they do to their bodies for the sake of the story they’re creating is similar to how, in illness, your body can become a tool to use, an adversary to coerce or bargain with or punish.

And some of the characters have bodies that have changed in dramatic ways that don’t necessarily fit with their actions and personalities. Illness can turn your body into an awful thing that is certainly not you (or who you’d like to think you are), but is simultaneously something you’re stuck with that defines and shapes you.

Haunted was scary and sad and gross, but I loved how it was funny at the same time. I spend a lot of time lying in bed with a migraine making up migraine jokes that probably not another person in the world would find funny. Haunted takes the feeling behind those jokes and turns it into something just about everyone can laugh at.