When I read this book years ago I remember loving it and even crying while reading. Now I see the flaws in this book all over the place. It doesn’t help that at the time I had not read most of King’s works so I didn’t see how he heavily “borrowed” from his other stories. If you are a Castle Rock fan this book is full of Easter eggs for you.
Heck, if you are a King fan you can seriously see parts of this book that reference previous books and even future books too. I am definitely glad that I re-read it, but am disappointed by the shallow character development of Lisey and Scott. The secondary characters were not much better and even the man named Dooley was lame as well. And even though this was Lisey’s story, it wasn’t. It was the story of Scott and she was the only one who ended up really knowing what happened to his father and brother.
Lisey’s story follows Lisey Landon. She has been widowed for two years and seems to finally be waking up a bit. She is very well off due to the fact that her husband was an award winning author who left her his entire fortune. She still misses Scott and is still being hounded by those who want whatever lost manuscripts she thinks she is hoarding. When a man calls and threatens to hurt her if she doesn’t give up any writing that Scott left, it leads Lisey to follow a path that Scott left behind for her to follow.
I honestly can’t remember if I have found King to write women very well beyond some key characters such as Susannah (the Dark Tower series) Rose Daniels (Rose Madder) and Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne). He really did not write Lisey very well. She just seemed to only exist for Scott and had even picked up the way he talked. We find out that she didn’t really do anything besides support her husband and get him through his “episodes.” Most of this book is Lisey hiding from herself things that Scott told her and she even experienced while married to him. King tries to call this out as secrets that marriages have that they don’t speak of, but I went, or when two dysfunctional people find each other. We also know that Lisey has three other sisters and she feels love and frustration in equal parts for them. She feels like a prototype to me of Holly that ends up being central in the Bill Hodges trilogy and in “The Outsider.” I really wish I had gotten any idea what Lisey liked besides Kool-Aid, cigarettes, and eating Hamburger Helper meals when she wants some comfort.
Scott had no depth to me at all. It was so weird that this was a story of a marriage of two people who supposedly were deep in love with each other. All he and Lisey apparently did were have sex and discuss and then hide away from his childhood. What drew them together? I didn’t get that vibe of falling in love and needing each other like Roland and Susan (Wizard and the Glass) or Susannah and Eddie (The Drawing of the Three). King can write love stories, I just didn’t get that here. Scott was too dependent on Lisey for his mental health and just overall happiness, one wonders what would have happened if she had passed away first. We also get no sense of him as a writer. We just hear that he’s super talented and someone became a millionaire. I am guessing that Scott is a bit of a stand-in for King and his other characters he has written that were writers like Tad Beaumont (The Dark Half) and Mike Noonan (Bag of Bones).
The other characters in this book are Lisey’s sisters and I can’t even keep them straight besides the sister who ends up going catatonic with Lisey trying to do her best to “holler her home.” The character of Dooley made me roll my eyes. It’s just a similar character that King had from “Secret Window, Secret Garden” even down to where he lived. It made zero sense except for King to just get a way for Lisey to go back to Boo’ya Moon.
So the writing was just okay. I got sick of reading Lisey saying smucking every freaking day. That apparently was a Scott thing she picked up and it’s aggravating. I get that King was trying to show how linked Lisey was to Scott that she even talked like him, but good grief. I saw some audiobook reviews and though people loved Mare Winningham, they got really tired of Lisey’s “voice.” And I realize that I did too though probably at a slower rate since I started skipping over anytime I saw the word “smucking” about to make an appearance. I also got sick of hearing and reading about the following words after a while: SOWESA which somehow means strap it on, mandy bunny for her sister named Amanda, BOOL THE END (seriously what the hell does bool even mean?) BOOL (UGH), prize or a drink, RC Cola or Coke. If you strip all of those words out of this book, it just drops down by a least 100 pages.
The flow was not good. King tries to juggle too many plots in this one. We have Lisey trying to find the “bool” that Scott left her. Also Lisey is trying to avoid a man that wants to hurt her as well as do something about her catatonic sister. Oh and Lisey is supposed to unravel the mystery of Boo’ya Moon too. It ends up being too much. After a while things read as very repetitive and you wonder at how smart Lisey is since she keeps doing some really dumb things.
The setting of this book has Lisey nearby to Castle Rock. We even have references to Derry and Dark Score Lake. At one point I wondered if everything was about 5 minutes apart from each other. I wish that King had included a map of where Castle Rock, Dark Score Lake, and Derry all were. I just like visual things like that. We also of course have Boo’ya Moon which is similar to another place that Constant Readers will recall from “Rose Madder.”
The ending was a letdown to me honestly. Once again it just echoed “Rose Madder.” And I didn’t get the whole thing with Lisey being left a story. I was letdown about what that story was in the end.
That said this book references other King works such as: “Bag of Bones,” “Rose Madder,” “IT,” “Needful Things,” “The Dark Tower series,” “Secret Window, Secret Garden,” “The Dark Half,” and “Misery.”