I used to be a Stephen King junkie around 5th-8th grade. Seriously, one summer I stayed up every night until about 3 am reading by flashlight (and ruining my damn eyes) so that I could finish IT (I still remember the crushing feeling of disappointment at the end of that novel for me…but that’s ok, I read something else and I was sated). I’ve always continued to like Stephen King but I haven’t actively sought out any of his newer books (aside from Joyland and Dr. Sleep…ok, I guess I have been actively seeking them out and I’ve been lying to myself). I was reading reviews on here and I “thought” I hadn’t read a Stephen King book in awhile and I saw Revival at the library and grabbed it up (a sentence that I seem to use in every review these days).
Side note: Thank you CBR for making me go back to my library. I’ve been making time to go there because otherwise, I’d be broke! And it’s nice to be at my library. It’s a sunny place, full of amazing people and there are books aplenty!
Revival follows the entwined lives of young Jamie Morton and the Reverend Charles Jacobs, a relationship that spans over at least 50 years. The whole town becomes enamored with the Jacobs family and everyone seems to have a renewed interest in going to church on Sundays and the children enjoy the youth program in the evenings. Jacobs has an interest and passion for electricity and he attempts to utilize and relate his electrical experiments to the works of God. When a horrible accident occurs the Reverend renounces his faith publicly and abandons/gets run out of the town. Gone is the handsome charismatic leader, he leaves a man stricken with grief, pain and obsession.
Flash forward about 20 years and now young Jamie is a strung out junkie, playing with (and getting kicked out of) travelling cover bands. On his way to score more heroin after being kicked out of his hotel at the state fair he runs in the Reverend Charles Jacobs again…except now he’s Charlie Daniels and he’s shilling these photos that involve using his “secret electricity” to create an illusion that commits to photograph. Jamie passes out watching this and is taken in by Jacobs who gives Jamie an offer. He can uses the secret electricity/inventions and cure him of his addictions. The decision that Jamie makes and the things that Jacobs continues to do under a variety of different names keeps their fates entwined even when apart.
This is kind of classic King…in that at some points I feel like the details are bloated, but then I always appreciate his attention to detail and extreme character development. So I don’t really know what I’m saying about that, so I’ll move on. I felt like some of Jamie’s plot points were autobiographical and I really enjoyed reading them as if they were. I know that King struggled with addiction in the past, I know that he was hit by a car that caused him to revisit those addictions and I also know that he loves music/playing in bands. All of these elements are embodied in the character Jamie and I think when he writes the portion about Jamie’s struggles in his twenties, it comes off very genuine and painful. I was intrigued by the Reverend’s character and I read that his character and a portion of plot was a little bit of homage to classic horror writers particularly Lovecraft. Without trying to give anything away, there’s a little glimpse of an alternate reality and at least one of Lovecraft’s “Old Ones”…I think this worked the least even though it’s key to the story, I think it’s a case of too little, too late and maybe just a little too weird (sorry guys, Lovecraft was a great big weirdo. A writer I can appreciate, but some turns are just “wait, what just happened moments” that’s pretty much how I felt in the second to last chapter). The plot seemed to get in the way of the plot. Also, if you write a book about electricity and throw in characters named Victor and Mary Shelley _______ (some last name) (at the very very end so that they stand out like a sore thumb), I’m gonna give you a little bit of side eye, even if you are Stephen King. Don’t get cute on me King, it doesn’t suit you. Overall, it was a great tense read, that crumbled a little at the end, but ultimately stayed standing, held together by a chilling epilogue.