In the last few years, every time I left on a long leave of absence, or on a roadtrip, or a hiking trip, I almost always carried a book by either Stephen King or James Clavell with me. Since most fans opine that 11/22/63 could well be King's best novel since his accident, I bought it when the trade paperback edition was released. And although I really wanted to read it, due to its size I never brought it with me when traveling abroad. Even the trade paperback is too bulky and too heavy to carry around in my backpack.

Hence, 11/22/63 just sat there on my shelf for years. So when the time came to think about what to bring with me on my roadtrip to Côte-Nord, Québec's rugged and final frontier, I knew the time had come to finally bring the book with me. Once again, I feel like a complete idiot for waiting so long to read it, as this title is hands down one of the author's best works to date.

Moreover, 11/22/63 is also more accessible than most of Stephen King's previous or subsequent novels. Other than the time-traveling aspect, the plot itself and its characters should appeal to a more mainstream readership. I know I'm quite late to this party. But if, like me, you have yet to give this book a shot, you should definitely do something about that! Believe you me, you won't be disappointed!

Here's the blurb:

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away...but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke... Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten...and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

The premise of the story is particularly interesting. By preventing the murder of JFK, would we then prevent the Vietnam War and possibly attenuate the Cold War, thus making our world a better place? Trouble is, the past doesn't want to be changed and it routinely throws up obstacles to prevent history from being altered. In addition, such resistance is proportional to the magnitude of the change involved. Though time-traveling is an important plot device in 11/22/63, the novel is more about the portrayal of the USA in the late 50s and early 60S, and Jake's relationships with the people he meets in the past. As a matter of fact, it's more about relationships than anything else, methinks.

The characterization is amazing. Indeed, it's the interaction and the relationships between the characters that are the heart and soul of 11/22/63. Throughout the novel, one never forgets that everything is about trying to prevent the JFK assassination. And yet, the book is more about the journey than the destination. Yes, it's about tracking Lee Harvey Oswald and ultimately trying to prevent him from killing the president of the USA. But it's more about Jake Epping's life, first in the present in 2011, and then in the past between 1958 and 1963. And it all begins when this recently divorced high school English teacher, earning extra money teaching a GED class, gives an assignment to his adult students, asking them to write about a day that changed their lives. One of the students, the limping school janitor named Harry Dunning, wrote a paper describing the night his alcoholic father murdered his mother and siblings with a hammer and injured Harry. This paper affects Jake in a profound way, and the two become friends. Little does Jake know that this sordid story will put him on a path that will send him back in time. The supporting cast is simply awesome, chief among them Al Templeton, Deke, Miz Mimi, Miz Ellie and, of course, Sadie Dunhill. Jake and Sadie's love story made for some emotional and poignant moments, especially the final scene. Never thought swing dancing would ever make such an impression on me.

A staggering amount of research was involved in the creation of this novel and 11/22/63 contains detailed minutiae regarding the late 50s and early 60s. Stephen King explores that historical period from a modern perspective. And while he bemoans the loss of lots of great things from that bygone era, the author doesn't shy away from its less glorious aspects such as poverty, rampant racism, religious fucktardness, and the violence toward women. Essentially, it sometimes feels as though he posits that things back then may not have been as good as we believe and that things now may not be as bad as some people would like to think.

Weighing in at 850 pages, 11/22/63 is a big book. Still, it doesn't suffer from any pacing issues. True, some portions are more fluid than others, yet the plot hooked me up from the very first page and never let go. I was capitvated throughout and went through this novel a lot faster than I thought possible. Stephen King has received a lot of flak over the years for his subpar endings. Thankfully, 11/22/63 features the perfect ending. Many thanks to Joe Hill, King's son, for suggesting this alternate ending.

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 9/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

1 commentaires:

adrianlawrence100 said...

850 words is a pretty heavy read, but book sounds good and the topic of course is immediately interesting due to the many theories already out there.