Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: 11/22/63, by Stephen King

I haven't read a Stephen King book for a long time. I used to read everything he wrote, but lately not so much. 11/22/63 has, as usual for King, a unique premise and, also as usual, a richly detailed plot that won't let you go. I was unsure going into 11/22/63, because of the "true" nature of the subject matter. Isn't King a horror/paranormal writer? How's he going to handle this? But, as I should have known, he did it masterfully.

Jake lives in Lisbon Falls, Maine, in 2011. He teaches English at the local high school. When his diner-owning friend Al asks him to come over, he has no idea what he's getting himself into. In the back room of Al's diner, there is a rip in time, which allows a person to travel back to Lisbon Falls in 1958. Al has made the trip several times, even staying for several years, but he can no longer go because Al is about to die from cancer.

Al convinces Jake that if he could stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing John F. Kennedy, that the world would be a much better place. The Vietnam War would never have happened, and all those lives would have been saved.

After much convincing, testing, and soul searching, Jake decides to go back to 1958. He plans to stay back in time until November of 1963.

Jake's life back in time is fascinating. King builds an entire life for Jake (who goes by George). He has a job, close friends, a romance, and even saves some other lives while he's also getting close to Dallas and Lee Harvey Oswald. This is a long book. Sometimes in some of King's epic tales, I've felt that he was just writing to fill up the pages. But in 11/22/63, even though there are a lot of details, he sucks you into George's life and makes you want to know every detail.

The ending and consequences of George's actions are unexpected -- at least to George. I had a feeling things weren't going to turn out how George expected -- do they ever? -- but I didn't know what exactly was going to happen. I liked the way King decided to end 11/22/63. 

I can't imagine the amount of research that went into writing this book. The details about Oswald's life and the period from 1958 to 1963 are astounding. King admits that some little things aren't true, but most of it is accurate.

I would recommend 11/22/63 to Stephen King fans for sure, or even old Stephen King fans, who aren't sure about his newer stuff. It takes an investment to get through -- I actually took a long time to read this since I kept stopping and reading other books in between -- but it's worth it. I've said it many times and I'll repeat it here. NO ONE tells a story like Stephen King. His talent is beyond my comprehension. Those who have an affinity for stories about the Kennedy assassination will find this entertaining, and dare I say, informative?

If you're not familiar with King, I would probably recommend starting with a different book, just because of the length. I'm going to put 11/22/63 in my high school library. I have a few King fans every year, and they will appreciate this addition.

Published by Scribner, 2011
Copy purchased by me
849 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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  1. I adore King, but also haven't read much of him lately. Thanks for the review, I'll be ordering this book one of these days :)

  2. I only read "Carrie" by King and thought it was ok but not great. I did hear from several library patrons both King fans as well as non-King fans who loved this book. It's been so popular and hasn't stayed on the shelf that long for me to check it out!

  3. I've only recently started reading King and while I do think this one sounds amazing, the size of it still intimidates me. Maybe one day I'll be ready to dive into it, but I might need to read a few more of his books in order to warm up to it.

  4. I have actually never read a Stephen King novel. I'm not a fan of horror, but this is the type of book that I would like. I've heard mostly good things about this one. I'll have to check it out.

  5. Like you, I've not read a King novel in ages. My husband owns this one & I'm looking forward to starting it. Glad to see you enjoyed it :)

  6. Oh Stephen King and time travel. What a unique combination. I love the thought of Jake having a parallel life as George. How intriguing.

  7. Isn't the scope of this book just mind-boggling?? So glad you enjoyed it! I too was blown away by the amount of research that went into it.

    1. I haven't read a lot of recent King, but I think this book is groundbreaking for him. Because of the authentic historical setting, I think this one probably required boatloads more research than his usual books. You can tell he really enjoyed the topic, because the result is "mind boggling" as you put it. I'm thoroughly convinced the man can write about anything...


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