Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #11: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Like a lot of people my age (35-ish), I devoured Stephen King when I was in high school and then sort of lost contact with him for a while.  My husband has kept up with King, though, so we were excited to receive 11/22/63 on loan from my mom at Christmas.  We do the incredibly nerdy thing of reading books aloud to each other at night and on road trips, which is fun, but it takes a LONG time to finish a book the length of this one.  Despite its length, the novel stayed interesting.  I had no idea where the novel was headed, and it kept me guessing right up to the end. 

The story follows Jake Epping, a young-ish high-school English teacher whose recent divorce from his alcoholic wife has left him emotionally numb.  One day, Jake’s buddy Al, who owns and operates a local diner, lets Jake in on his secret.  In the back of Al’s diner is a “wormhole” in time that leads to the 1950s.  Al has been taking trips into the past for several years to buy ground beef at 1950s prices, and he has come up with idea of using the worm hole to live in the past long enough to put a stop to the Kennedy assassination.  This will work, Al says, because no matter how long one spends in the past, he always returns to the present a mere 10 seconds after he left.  Al tried to save Kennedy himself, but he came down with cancer and had to return to the present in order to die as painlessly as possible, so his final wish is for Jake to pick up where he left off and finish the job.  Jake tries out the wormhole a couple of times, using it to save a family of children from their murderous father.  Finally, Jake is convinced and moves to the past.  Although he wonders about the long-term consequences of messing with the past, Jake has seen for himself the ease with which he can change the past back if necessary, so he decides to try it.  Given the fake identity George Amberson by Al, Jake steps back into the past in order to save JFK.  In order to do the job, Jake/George will have to stay several years in what he calls “The Land of Ago.”  At first, he spends his time saving people, substitute teaching, reading Al’s notes about the past, and writing about his experiences, but he eventually makes his way to Texas, where things begin to get interesting.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well-written the novel is, though King still seems to write  dialogue that’s a bit too, for lack of a better word, glib.  There are several winks to his fans here, most notably when Jake/George travels to Derry, Maine, and meets two of the main characters from It.  As I said earlier, though, the novel kept me guessing, so I was interested all throughout the three months or so it took to read it aloud.  I would encourage former King fans like me to give the novel a try.  It’s very different from his older work in some ways, but it also feels familiar at the same time.  I probably would have hard time putting it down were I not constrained by the rules of the read-aloud arrangement I have with my husband.  It tempted me to cheat a few times, and that’s a good sign.

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