I’m a big fan of Stephen King. I’ve read many of the classics (Pet Sematary, The Shining, It, Misery, Salem’s Lot, Firestarter, Needful Things) some of the zany ones (Christine and Rose Madder) and I think my favorite, the most not-put-down-able for me, was The Stand. All that said I find him pretty uneven and sort of have to steel myself for his typical writing style. For folks that haven’t read any of his books, the way I describe it is that it is always just a slow tortuous build, like the beginning of a roller coaster for a while, maybe the first 3/4 of the book. And then the last 1/4 is like BUCKLE UP PEOPLE, TWISTS AND SCREAMS AHEAD.
However, this one was my White Whale because I let the length (824 pages) keep me at bay. In fact, someone gave me this book and I was like, yeeeeah, I’m never going to read it and gave it up. Flash forward to pandemic times, wherein I’m looking for something to make me feel better about life, and what better to do that than juicy horror? I got it from the library buuuut had to return it before finishing it so ended up buying a copy. Irony.
I found 11/22/63 to be different from his other novels, maybe because of the premise, you already can see the coaster loops, though you don’t know the end result. Our main character, Jake Ebbing, discovers a portal to the past via Al his diner-owning friend, which will take you back to 1958. You can stay as long as you’d like and when you return, only 2 minutes have elapsed. Al has decided that he wants to do some good, really make a difference, and one event in history changed could certainly change the course of history: the assassination of JFK. Al is in ill health, so he brings Jake into his confidence and asks him to take up the mantle. Jake has his own historical agenda, but plans to try to fulfill Al’s goal and stop Lee Harvey Oswald, once he confirms that he did in fact work alone. So, with all that the metaphorical fat lady isn’t going to sing until we see how the attempt to thwart the assassination goes, so you have a fixed point of conflict to wait.. Thus, you can settle in a bit more than with a usual King book.
It took me a while to get through, mostly because some of this book was downright charming, and I knew that it couldn’t last, so I had a hard time trucking through the happy parts to the unhappiness I knew was on the other side. Eventually though, I bucked up. He still went a bit off the rails in the last act, but I think the novel was resolved well and the years and years he spent researching were well spent. If you’d like something engrossing as you sit at home, look no further.