Saturday, January 2, 2016

Review of Stephen King's 11/22/63

11-22-63.jpgNot what you were expecting, eh? I know that it is the last week of the NFL Season, and that post will be coming shortly, but during the course of my Christmas vacation, I decided to re-read Stephen King's 2011 novel 11/22/63. If you haven't heard by now, Hulu will be presenting an eight-part miniseries based on the novel beginning on President's Day, February 15, 2016.  I wanted to re-read the novel before the premiere, and of course, what better time to read than a school break.

Anyone who has visited this blog knows that Stephen King is my favorite author bar none. I know, I know, I love The Great Gatsby, but I've been a Stephen King fan girl since sixth grade, and it is rare that he disappoints me. (I forgive you, Mr. King for From a Buick 8, maybe I need to re-read it, but I did not like.) I'm currently trying to read as many of his works as I can this year, which brings me to 11/22/63.

I will try to keep this review relatively free of spoilers, because this has become one of my favorite Stephen King novels. The novel begins during the summer of 2011 as the main character Jake Epping, like many teachers, is clearing out to begin his break. He receives a call from Al Templeton the owner of a local, but not so reputable, diner where a newly divorced Jake often takes his meals. Al, who the day before, seemed to be a thriving middle-aged man, now looks like a shadow of himself. Al announces to Jake that he is dying of lung cancer brought about by his years of serious chain smoking. Before Jake can question how cancer can destroy a person over night, Al explains that he has been in the past trying to complete a mission that the cancer will now prevent him from achieving.  He explains to Jake that in the store room of his diner is a portal to the past. A disbelieving Jake steps through the passage into the bright sun of 1958. After a short visit to the past, Jake returns shaken, but intrigued by his visit to the land of once upon a time.

Al then explains why he wants Jake to take his place on his quest to alter the past--he wants Jake to save President John F. Kennedy. Jake, of course, is reluctant to take on Al's outlandish plan to change history, until he remembers the tragic story of one of his adult pupils. The opportunity to change the course of his pupil's life proves too much for Jake to resist, so with Al's help Jake "jumps down the rabbit hole" on his first trip to change the past. After a colossal failure and an unexpected twist in 2011, Jake embarks on a journey to correct the mistake he made in the timeline of the past, to restore one of Al's changes, and to travel to Texas to complete Al's quest to save John F. Kennedy, but Jake will soon learn that the past is "obdurate" and does not want to change.

Although I've read 11/22/63 before, I had forgotten many of the details of the novel, which is why I love to reread novels. The novel appeals to all types of readers: spy fans, mystery fans, conspiracy theorists, sci-fi fans, and even to romance fans. This novel is more in the vein of The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption than It, Carrie, or The Shining.  The novel comes loaded with suspense as Jake winds his way along Time's highway where he finds love is the least likely place and makes a decision that may not only affect his life but all of humanity.

The novel checks in at over 800 pages. The first time I read it, it took me about ten days to complete it, but hey, yo, I have a job. With all the Christmas stuff, it took about same amount of time to read. King's tale is told from the first person point of view with Jake narrating his own story. I know some people do not like first person, but I love first person POV. To me, it keeps you focused on Jake who, FYI, is not necessarily the most reliable narrator. It does get a little long-winded with the spy games that Jake has to play. I'm not a fan of spy novels, which is probably why I didn't like that part. There is a little gore for those horror fans, but not enough to turn off the squeamish. It also doesn't dwell too much on the sci-fi aspect of the novel, which I appreciated. Ultimately, the novel explores people being placed in surreal circumstances and having to accept for better or worse the consequences of their own actions.

By the way, I have mad respect for the sheer amount of research that King had to do for this novel that contains fictionalized versions of many of the actual people who were a part of the crazy world of Lee Harvey Oswald. I admit that I used Google quite a bit to see pictures of the historical players. Overall, the novel was an excellent read, and while it is not my favorite Stephen King novel, it is my the top ten. What would you do if you could go back and change one moment in time?

Until next time, "The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it."~Wendell Berry

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