Wednesday, April 10, 2013


This book was recommended to me by my wonderfully prolific reader cousin Summer.  It's not my first Stephen King read (my dad used to loan me copies of his short stories and novellas, which are mind-boggling and bizarre), but it's been a while since I picked up one of his works; man, he is just a good writer.  King might be the only author who can make a story about the story of a man who travels back in time to stop the JFK assassination believable.
11.22.63 begins in 2011, when Jake Epping is summoned by the guy who owns a local diner.  It turns out that, in the back room of the establishment, there is a portal into September 1958.   Jake can step back into mid-century America and change history.  Al tried to go back to stop the assassination, but became ill while he waited for 1963 to roll around; he thinks Jake is the guy for the job.  A lot of things contribute to Jake deciding to accept the assignment (his recovering alcoholic wife has recently left him, things around town are kind of slow, he doesn't have a ton of connections to keep track of), but chief among them is a writing assignment he graded for his GED English class about a man whose life was changed on the night that his father murdered his family.  Jake decides to go back in time and try to stop this event first, then stays on in the past as George Amberson, a nomad who travels from Maine to Florida to Texas.  His journey finally leads to Lee Harvey Oswald and that fateful day in November.  Will he have the conviction to stop Oswald's gun from firing?
Let's start with the fact that this novel is a hulking, very King-esque 849 pages.  It's taken me 3 weeks to complete, not because it wasn't riveting and well-paced, but because it's so thick.  Jake travels back in time more than once, so there are a couple of time lines to keep straight, in addition to the issue of him having a life from 1958-1963.
As I was navigating the plot, John Paul asked, "So has the woman come in yet?"  He didn't know anything about the story, but was totally correct in intuiting that there was a love story connected in some way.  Jake/George does indeed cross paths with a woman while in Texas, and their match imbues the novel with much-needed emotional resonance and gives him a sense of responsibility in the past toward someone other than himself.
In the end, yes, the story has a lot of information about a truly watershed moment in American history (keep in mind, though, that this is fiction), but is more about how a man from today's world can develop a life in a completely new time and place.  I totally recommend it.  Just make sure you have the time!

1 comment:

  1. It's going on my "request" list at the library immediately. When we lived in Dallas, a trip to Dealey Plaza was a must for visitors. That event was still so much a part of the city. Just finished "The Dinner" and it was another one of those disturbing stories about a weird family. Would be great for a book club. Just made my flight reservations for the Florida trip so see you in a month!!! XXXXX