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Overview If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be what you hoped?
Jake Epping 35 teaches high school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and cries reading the brain-damaged janitor's story of childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father. On his deathbed, pal Al divulges a secret portal to 1958 in
his diner back pantry, and enlists Jake to prevent the 11/22/1963 Dallas assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. Under the alias George Amberson, our hero joins the cigarette-hazed full-flavored world of Elvis rock n roll, Negro discrimination, and freeway gas guzzlers without seat belts. Will Jake lurk in impoverished immigrant slums beside troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald, or share small-town friendliness with beautiful high school librarian Sadie Dunhill, the love of his life?
Reviews I'll be honest here. It's really rare that I get through a book over 500 pages, let alone 700 (Nook pages). It's also true that I have never read a single thing from Mr. King until now. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe his books intimidated me, because when I was younger everyone was always talking to me about how his books were so long, and blah blah. Anyway, I am proud to say that 11/22/63 was my first book read by Stephen King. I hear it's so much different than his other work, but I also haven't met a single person that didn't love it. I read this book because everybody and their brother was recommending it to me as a "must read". I'm also not a big historical fiction fan, and didn't know how much I would enjoy reading about 20 years before my birth. I had nothing to worry about.
Here is a book that you never want to end, yet you do want it to end, because you need to know what is going to happen. King introduces us to a man named Jake who insists that he is not emotionless despite the fact that he doesn't cry often. I can relate to him right off the bat. Not a big crier, but I definitely feel emotions on a huge level. Jake is sent back to 1963 with a plan made up by a guy named Al who owns a local diner, and has the "rabbit hole" which is how they travel back in time. At first his mission is just to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK, but then little things pop up here and there making him consider a few new things that need to be changed. I'm not going into any more detail than that, because I don't want to give away one single thing in this brilliant novel. Fans of his story "It" may be excited to know he revisits the town of Derry, Maine, where "It" was located.
The excitement and suspense in this book were astonishing. I held my breath in anticipation of certain things Jake had to do, and then some twist would come out
of left field, and I would continue reading in awe. There were also several sighs of relief and a couple of cute moments involving Jake's romance that just made me say "aww".
I do feel like there were a rough 100ish pages that dragged on somewhere in the middle, and the book may have benefited by taking out a few things, but obviously I'm no expert. That's just my opinion. Again, this may have also been just something I was feeling, because I was very impatient and really wanting to know how this book would end. Some people didn't like the ending, but I loved it!
In the afterword King discusses his research a bit. You can most definitely tell that a lot of research and thought went into this novel. The descriptions are vivid and when I say you are really transported back to the 60's I mean it. You will feel it.
11/22/63 is a truly memorable, wonderfully written book that I have already recommended to several family members and friends, and I will continue to recommend for years to come. This is another of King's books that I could see as a film, too. If you are wanting to try a Stephen King book, but don't know if you will like all the horror, read this! It is not like that at all. *sigh*... I'm so upset that it's over... You got me at the ending there, Stephen. You really, truly got me. What can I possibly say about this wonderful, beautiful book? That it's wonderful and beautiful? No. That's no where near enough praise. This book made it up to my top 3 favorites list by King (placing at #3) and is probably my favorite book of 2011 (if not tied with Shutter Island). Reading this book, I was so worried about what the ending would be (because, let's be honest here, we know King isn't the best at handling endings... Exhibit A: Under the Dome), and I had a really strong feeling I knew what the ending would be, but that ending was just absolutely amazing... It left everything wrapped up nicely, and was one of his better endings, if not his best (or at least my favorite, even though it's not wrapped up with a pretty bow). The last chapter made me grin ear to ear, but then it left me feeling sad beyond words can describe. To be honest, after I turned the last page (or better yet, clicked, since I own a Kindle), I just sat
there and bawled my eyes out, to the point where my husband got worried about me. Yeah... It was that sad. The characters in this book couldn't be better, and I really, truly mean that. I loved every single character (with the exception of Lee Harvey Oswald... Poor Marina...). I loved George/Jake's students, I loved George/Jake, I loved Sadie, I loved Miz Mimi, and much more. I also really liked the purpose of the character the Card Man, even for the very short time he was in the book (I would have liked King to expand a bit more on that, but hey, the book's almost 1000 pages), but the real star in this book was the relationship between George/Jake and Sadie. Their love for each other was undeniable and irrevocable, and just so darn beautiful. Who would have thought that the Stephen King we all know and love (at least I know and love him) could write a beautiful and touching romance alongside a thriller. That was a great shock, and I hope he incorporates this skill of weaving a good relationship into a lot more of his books to come. Being a huge King fan, I couldn't wait for this book to come out. But, in all fairness, I didn't expect to love it. I thought it would be average, maybe even "just okay", but let me tell you... I really, really loved this book.
And if you aren't a King fan, please (pretty please) don't let that stop you from reading this book. This book has absolutely no scary parts, for those of you who abstain from reading Stephen King's books because they are classified as horror, and, like I mentioned earlier on in this review, I actually cried at the end of the book (the first time that I've ever cried while reading a King novel). You can tell that Stephen King put a lot of effort into writing 11/22/63, and his details of life in the late 50's and early 60's really made me wish I was alive then. So, please, even if you don't like Stephen King, read this! It's an absolutely beautiful book, and one I wish I can read for the first time all over again. What did I think? I think I lost a weekend and there is no way to go back in time to get it because I don't know where the rabbit hole is! But would I? Would I change having read this book? No way!
I was a huge Stephen King fan in high school and gobbled up all of his books. Until ... they went from cool weird to over-the-top weird. Suddenly coke machines were your worst enemy and there seemed to be a less emotional element mixed with the macabre (think Pet Cematary) and it was just a bunch of words filling up pages talking about near nonsense. I stopped following King. Plain and simple. But over the years I have meandered up his path from time to time ... and found The Dome was along those lines of his original work. But this? This was FANTABULOUS! Right from the get-go the premise draws you in. Who wouldn't
want to know what the world would be like if John F. Kennedy hadn't been shot? But this is Stephen King, and he's not taking you to bed for good without a boatload of foreplay. I was snagged from page one, and I too was greatly concerned about what happens to the future if you mess up the past!
I guess it couldn't end any other way ... and I was a little confused as to the events that supposedly would take place if Kennedy hadn't died ... but I don't want to say anymore. You must read this book and you must understand you will have no other desire to do anything else until it is finished! All hail the King! Talk about ending the reading year of 2011 on a high note. Review to follow. Happy New Year everyone!
I may be a mad dog fan of Stephen King, but that doesn’t mean everything he writes gets me foaming at the mouth. Over the years there have been disappointments -- but this book is not one of them. I would rank King’s foray into time travel and historical fiction as a rousing, emotional, unforgettable success for in it he is doing what King does when writing at his absolute best – create an epic, original story arc that grips the reader with a serious case of “the gottas” (as in, I gotta know what’s going to happen next) and people it with richly drawn characters with unique pasts and motivations that empower them to walk right off the page.
Kennedy’s assassination may not be THE shot heard round the world, but it definitely qualifies as one of them. For those Americans who lived through it (and other interested observers from afar) it became one of those watershed moments in history (where were you when it happened?) Not just because a President was murdered in cold blood (a rare event if there ever was one), but because he was the youngest President, a father of two small children with a beautiful wife, cut down in the prime of his life. Kennedy carried a mystique around him as a tall, handsome, capable man who was going to steer America into the horizon of a happy ending. He had his detractors (no doubt about that) and those who felt he robbed Nixon of the 1960 election, but his obvious charisma and charm garnered him an equal amount of support and admiration as well.
His death shocked millions and left a generation of supporters to wonder what if? What if Kennedy had lived? It’s easy to build someone into a hero and a saint after
they have died too young. It happens all the time. When it happens to a man such as Kennedy? That myth-building starts immediately and never ceases. The "walk on water" Christ mythology that sprouted up around Kennedy since his assassination definitely exists. Baby boomers like to believe that had he lived he could have saved an entire generation, but that's just wishful thinking. Kennedy was just a man. Not a saint or a miracle worker. He had his flaws and shortcomings like anyone else. Yet the temptation to believe an America where Kennedy had lived would be a better America persists to this day, and King, being the master storyteller that he is, taps into that long held dogma and runs with it as only he can.
At the heart of this story is the sexy question: if you could change history, would you? Should you? It’s nothing but hubris and complete folly to assume that the changes you wrought would guarantee something better. There are no guarantees in this life except for one: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. King is taking one of his country’s watershed moments – the Kennedy assassination – and sending an unassuming English teacher back in time carrying all the “good intentions” in the world. Jake Epping has a mission and his heart is filled with the certainty that what he is doing is the right thing. Such a man can be a fool, a hero, or very dangerous. At his most influential, such a man will be all three.
I love time travel – the unintended consequences, the paradoxes, the complete mindfuck it can turn out to be. That’s why The Butterfly Effect is one of my favorite movies and I adore when Homer sends himself back in time to the land of dinosaurs and tries to get back to a present he can live with. Without getting too geeky science-fictiony about the whole process, King creates a believable portal into the past complete with its own rules and peril.
Something else this novel does is paint a very intimate portrait of small town American life circa 1958-63 (and a visit to Derry!) King knows small towns like nobody’s business and when he writes them he takes the reader by the hand and drops them directly into the landscape. But King isn’t doing just small towns here; he is writing a particular time as well as place. He creates a sense of nostalgia, but one with teeth. There is the sugary, Land of Ago where everything is cheaper and shinier and seemingly more innocent, but mixed with the darker, hidden elements of racism, domestic violence, and poverty. King’s microscope misses no detail – there is glory and wonder, but there is ugliness and harshness too.
Under King’s microscope is also a very real historical figure, and that is Lee Harvey Oswald. I love what King is able to accomplish here, showing Oswald as a regular guy, a small man who beat his wife, a small man who suffered from a bad case of arrogance and delusions of grandeur. Under the microscope is also Oswald as the Lone Gunman. Was he or wasn’t he? I found this part of the novel to be the most gripping and engaging. Jake Epping’s long, lonely stakeouts, his stalking and hunting of Oswald made the most sense to me, and rang the most true. Jake Epping finds love and friends, but his relationship with Oswald is the one I will never forget.
Epping is us and we go on this adventure not just with him, but in a way as him. I figure this is as close any of us will ever get to traveling back in time in an attempt to change history. It all feels so real -- King hits upon every sense – you are seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and hearing all at once. It is an intoxicating brew, a cautionary tale for the ages. The past is obdurate for the same reason a turtle's shell is obdurate: because the living flesh inside is tender and defenseless.
…when that happens, you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know that? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark. It's no mystery that I am a rabid King fan, and have been ever since I read Salem's Lot way back in 1975. Each new book holds the promise of another singularly well-told tale filled with suspense, terror, and a sardonic wit. Does he have his duds? Absolutely...witness The Tommyknockers, The Dark Half, and Dreamcatcher, for example. At his worst, he's overly didactic, infantile, and runs his patented catch phrases into the ground. But in his best works, like Pet Sematary, Dolores Claiborne and The Green Mile, he marries clever plot and knowing characterization with a philosopher's heart, shaping the lives of ordinary people into extraordinary, insightful narratives. Such is the case with 11/22/63, one of his very best novels. It's a historical, sci-fi, romantic time-travel thriller, but it's also an immense tale of two worlds, that of the early 1960s and now, and how
each echoes in the corridors of the other. Filled with rich characters and moral dilemmas, it asks the eternal question that nags all human beings, "What if things turned out differently?", and teaches us a beautiful lesson in humility and the power and fragility of love. At 848 pages this is one of King's longest works, but in no sense is it padded...the book is filled with incident and wisdom, while being a true page-turner. A tour de force! Time travel is one of those things that I just can't ever seem to wrap my head around. There are so many variables and questions... and it just generally ends up confusing me, and if it's not handled well, it usually ends up irritating me, too. So, I don't read a lot of time travel stories.
But this is King. And once again, he holds on to his title.
This book was incredible. I don't even know what to say about it. It's so fresh in my mind, and there are so many things I want to mention, so many notes I took, but mentioning them wouldn't make sense out of context, and I don't want to spoil anything for anyone.
So I'll just say a few things. I loved how this story built up and up, layer upon layer of awesomeness. I loved the characters, as usual with King's stories. They could literally walk through the door right now and I wouldn't be a bit surprised. I loved the plausibility of the events, despite the rabbit hole and the Yellow Card Man. But then, I loved the little tie-ins to the Dark Tower multiverse too, and so that made those things fit perfectly in the story for me.
I can't think of a single thing I didn't like about this book. It was just incredible.
So much win. That is all.
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