Published by Pocket Books on January 26th 2016
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.
This was SUCH an interesting one for me.
Stephen King is a writer that I’ve always wanted to love, but I’ve never jived with any of his books. I often find them repetitive and I’m not a huge fan of his endings. Which sucks, because I love the ideas behind his novels, just not the actual execution of them. But every now and then I get the urge to pick up one of his books to just try.
I love historical fiction. I love conspiracy theories. I love the idea of time travel. This book was like the trifecta of literature goodness for me. I’m especially a sucker for JFK conspiracy theories; in my American history class in high school I did a half hour presentation on whether or not I thought Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. It’s still one of my favourite projects.
Anyway, going into 11/22/63, I was excited. I really wanted to like it. I kept whispering “Please Mr. King, don’t fuck this up”, as if he could go back in time to rewrite the novel to my liking if it didn’t suit me. Because, you know, I am that important of a reader to him.
But the thing was, I didn’t have to try and like it. I genuinely enjoyed it. Like, really enjoyed it. It’s a mammoth of a book, but I flew through the pages. I needed to know what was going to happen. Was Jake Epping going to be able to stop Oswald? What would that change in the future? Would he be able to go back to the future if he was successful or would the portal cease to exist? Was he actually just going to be a mental patient in some hospital who was making this all up (View Spoiler »I half expected this and was insanely relieved when it turned out not to be the case. « Hide Spoiler? So many questions kept me anxiously reading the entire time.
I liked Jake Epping. I don’t have much else to say about him, really. View Spoiler »The only thing that really bothered me about him was how quickly he decided to go back in time and try to stop Oswald, even though it meant giving up 5 years of his life. « Hide Spoiler
I really, really enjoyed how detailed the descriptions for the Land of Ago was. I wasn’t alive in the 50s and 60s, but the details were so rich and inviting that I wish I had been. I’d especially liked to have tried an honest to goodness rootbeer from back then. By the end of the book I wished I could travel back in time just to experience what Jake had experienced. It sounded positively delightful.
I was super happy about the ending too, which as I’ve said, are normally let downs for me. I was glad this one did not disappoint. I was very interested to see how it would end since there were so many possibilities, but I think this was the right one, just based off of who Jake Epping was as a man. View Spoiler »I honestly don’t know which broke my heart more: Sadie dying in his arms or him realizing he had to leave Sadie in the past so he didn’t disrupt the future. « Hide Spoiler
I’m so glad I finally picked up 11/22/63, and it’s given me hope to continue testing more of King’s writing.
Have you read it? What did you think?