You ever meet someone who’s obsessed with what they were like as a child? How precocious they were, with their imaginary friends, invented games and little word substitutions? Don’t you just hate that?
Lisey’s Story, which is apparently, and inexplicably, Stephen King’s personal favorite among his works, is like that. The book has major “isn’t it funny how I used to mispronounce spaghetti” vibes. For Pete’s sake, the 50-year title character says “smucking” instead of the f-word.
Let’s turn our attention to Lisey. She’s a young widow after the untimely death of her husband, a world-famous writer. It’s been two years and she’s just getting around to going through his papers, much to the frustration of the academics desperate for literary ephemera to comb through. Lisey (which rhymes with “Cee-cee” although I found that strangely unpronounceable in context) just doesn’t feel ready for the job, and any time she tries to force the issue she winds up getting sidetracked by memories of her marriage.
One of the novel’s major failings is that neither Lisey or her husband Scott are characterized well enough for their love to be believable or compelling. Lisey is an enigma and even King doesn’t seem to understand her, while Scott is mostly developed through his horrific childhood, which left this reader wondering what exactly attracted these two people to each other in the first place.
Scott’s horrific childhood is the source of the novel’s other huge problem. Part of Scott seems trapped in his pre-pubescent state, a time when he and his older brother had to carefully manage their lives around their father’s abuse. A strange, otherworldly (literally) type of madness runs in Scott’s family and the only resort they have against is to repair to the strange alternate reality the Landon boys call “Booya Moon” for reasons only a child could understand and only the most patient Constant Reader could forgive.
Booya Moon, with its Fairy Forest and it’s terrifying “long boy” are all too real, unfortunately, and the passages set in that alternate reality are the most tedious in n tedious book. Frankly, the whole concept is so stupid its impossible to invest in and at some point, for me at least, this ceased to be a story I was engaging with and became a bunch of seemingly random words printed on a page. By the end I couldn’t have cared less about what happened to Lisey or about the final revelations about Scott’s past. I just wanted to get to a place where I never had to hear an alleged adult say “smucking” again.