Review – 11/22/63
By Stephen King
Yes, Stephen King, the man who writes the scariest characters on earth, wrote a time travel book.
Jake Epping, a recently divorced teacher, lives a quiet life in a small Maine town. His divorce has left him despondent about life in general but he trudges on day after day. One of those days, he’s approached by a friend, Al Templeton, a local restaurant owner who says he has something to show him. Jake meets Al at his restaurant and is surprised to see his friend in the last stages of cancer and struggles to understand when all this happened. Unfortunately, he ends up with more questions than answers when Al shows him the time portal in the back closet of his restaurant. Jake is skeptical but goes through. Al then ropes him into his scheme — he wants Jake to go back in time to kill Lee Harvey Oswald and save John F. Kennedy.
Oh, the tale Mr. King weaves. This book feels part science fiction, part alternate reality, part fantasy. But what it really is is all wonderful. There was a time when King was a comfort read for me. That might sound strange considering he’s known more for horror but I read Carrie, Christine, Salem’s Lot, The Running Man, and The Long Walk over and over again. Each time amazed by the tension, the twists and turns, and I loved being scared by him. Eventually, I moved away from his books, not for lack of books (the man is more than prolific) but because there were other books that caught my attention. Admittedly, I probably burned myself out. A few years ago, I asked a colleague’s husband if I could borrow one of his King books. It was Duma Key and I was once again left wondering why I didn’t read more King.
When 11/22/63 came out everyone fell hard for it. I decided to wait. I wanted to read it but I tend to shy away from bestsellers and give myself space from all the wonderful reviews. And there were many wonderful reviews of this one. Then Twitter happened. Natalie over at Coffee and a Book Chick was talking about how she loved it. I asked if it was really worth it (the answer was a resounding YES) and then decided that since I needed a book for my Thanksgiving travels, I would buy it. What can I say — it was fabulous.
There’s nothing particularly scary about this book, so if you’re judging on that level, walk away. In some respects, that made it feel like I wasn’t reading a King book but I was OK with that outcome because the characters are amazing. I cared so much about what would happen to them and I came very close to tears at the end. I didn’t want it to end.
It was a rush of a story too. While it’s slow in the middle and you start wondering what if anything Jake is going to do about Oswald, you’re too caught up in his alternate life to care. It’s the life he was looking for and you’re so glad to see him finally find it that you start hoping that he won’t go through with it so he can continue with what he found.
This was a book I fell for hard. It also made me thankful that King is an author with many tomes to his name. While I can’t recreate this reading, I can revel in his other books.
Believe the hype on this one. It is that good.