Thursday, April 12, 2012


By Stephen King

I am not nor will ever be a horror fan, whether movies or books. The only Stephen King books that I have read are The Stand and Misery. Until now. I read 11/22/63 over Holy Week and Easter and enjoyed it. I found it to be a bit different from the other two books. Although there was quite a bit of tension and some violence, this is not a horror novel. It is more of a science fiction/ fantasy set in the Twentieth Century.

The premise of the book is that there is a time portal of sorts in the town of Lisbon Falls, Maine where Jake Epping teaches both high school English and an adult English class. Only one person, Jake's friend, Al, knows about the portal. Al runs the local (and extremely cheap) hamburger joint. He is dying and needs Jake's help. The time portal is in the diner's storeroom and is the secret to all the cheap food. Al shows Jake the portal and lets him take the trip, which in our time only lasts two minutes, no matter how long you remain in the past. The day on the other side is always September 9, 1958 and it always seems to "reset" to that day and time whenever you enter the time portal.

Al has discovered that time can be changed but that the past will put up a fight. In order to test this theory, Al had saved a young woman from being shot in a hunting accident. This was not an easy task as all kinds of freaky accidents seemed to work together to prevent his saving her. His car had four flat tires, he was forced to take another road because of construction and, eventually, the only road to the area was blocked by a felled tree. He then came back to the future and saw that she had lived, this time not in a wheelchair.

Al asks Jake to go back in time and prevent JFK from being assassinated.

After Al's death, Jake decides to do as Al has asked. He has, thanks to Al, a great deal of background information on Lee Harvey Oswald and the route of the President's motorcade plus a cheat sheet of sporting event outcomes. Jake also has a personal motivation: he wants to save the school's disabled janitor from being hurt and his family from being murdered by the father. On the way, Jake discovers how truly stubborn the past is -- it truly does not want to be changed. He also finds himself in some lonely places as well as some towns that call to him like home. He falls in love yet manages to keep to his original agenda. Much of his time is spent teaching but he also finds the time for spying on the Oswalds and placing some bets that get him into trouble time and again.

At first, it felt like King was trying to convince the reader of how much better the world was in the late 1950's. However, it becomes clear that the world was not so great (did everyone really smoke that much? How did people rationalize separate bathrooms for the two races?) and many of our modern conveniences have greatly enhanced our lives (how did we survive emergencies without cell phones?). Although the book has 849 pages (!), King does a great job in continuing to build character, place settings, plot and tension throughout. You learn to care about the people Jake becomes friends with and you find yourself cheering Jake on to the finish. Of course, the question in the back of your mind is: how will JFK living really improve our future?

This book addressed my own faith in terms of that fact that our lives, particularly our faith, is linear. I cannot go back and make myself believe in God at an earlier age. Part of who I am as a person of faith includes my periods of doubt, denial and faithlessness. Without those early lessons or experiences, would my faith be as strong as it is today? Would I have heard God's call on my life to preach? Would God had called me at all? My past faith life -- both the good and bad parts -- make up who I am today. Certainly, I can change the future of my faith but my past is simply a part of who I am.

I recommend 11/22/63 despite the length.

Happy reading!


1 comment:

  1. Yay - I'm glad you liked it. I loved it. I'm a long-time King fan, and like you said - he's not all horror - he's just a good writer.