Monday, October 14, 2013

{2013 TBR Pile Challenge Review} 11/22/63 by Stephen King

ISBN #: 978-1451627282
Page Count: 849
Copyright: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Scribner

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

Kathy's Review:
(Reprinted with permission from Kathy's person blog, Grown Up Book Reports)

Simply put: the best Stephen King I’ve read.

I have wanted to read 11/22/63 ever since the book debuted in 2011. A story about a man traveling back in time to try to stop the JFK assassination, AND it’s written by Stephen King? It sounded like a winning combination to me. I have been an on-and-off King fan since junior high, when I hungrily tore through chillers like Christine, The Shining, and It alongside my Sweet Valley High collection. For a while, I thought I would like to become the next Stephen King. My junior high/early high school writing borders on the macabre.

But there’s a softer side to King, apparent in stories like The Body (which became the movie Stand by Me) and it shines here in 11/22/63. Because this story, in its 800+ pages, is about so much more than the assassination. There’s a great love story in these pages, of course told in only the way King could tell it. There’s roadblocks and obstacles for protagonist Jake to overcome as he forges toward altering the past. “The past is obdurate,” Jake repeats many, many times. As this word was not in my vocabulary, I learned that “obdurate” means “unwilling to change.” Indeed, the past tries to swallow Jake up in his quest to get to 11/22/63.

Is the past worth changing? Or will it so greatly alter the future that it’s best to leave it alone without meddling? That is the larger question at hand in this book. The sacrifices that must be made in order to stop a huge historical event might not be ultimately worth the price.

This book would appeal to so many people for so many different reasons. Anyone with a remote interest in the JFK assassination may enjoy the fictionalization of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the way Jake is able to observe Oswald’s home life. For those interested in this period in American history, King also paints a very vivid picture of life in the late 50s/early 60s, along with people’s attitudes and beliefs back then. Extensive research must have gone into writing this book, not only about Kennedy, but about clothing, cars, the medical care available in the day, and more. It is surely one of King’s masterpieces.

I chose to read this for the TBR pile challenge but I was planning on reading it no matter what. It may be one that I read again in a few years.

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