I just finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63 last night. All I can say is wow.
This is my new favorite book of his, my previous one was It.
This isn’t a horror novel, but is a great “what if?” sci-fi thriller/drama with a healthy love story.
The epic tale (just shy of 850 pages) follows school teacher Jake Epping, who through his friend Al (shades of Quantum Leap!!) finds what they call a “rabbit hole” back to a specific point in the past – September of 1958. Following this hole back up to 2011 it’s always 2 minutes after you left, no longer how long you’ve been gone, and each trip back resets events and history.
Al, who has spent a number of years in the past in an attempt to change events arrives back, older and dying, unable to survive to the moment he wanted to change.
He convinces Jake to take a quick trip back to experience 58 for himself. Then upon his return asks Jake to change a very important moment in history, Kennedy’s assassination on 11/22/63.
Not quite convinced he can change the past yet, but inspired by a paper written by one of his adult students, he decided to see if he can stop a terrible tragedy from occuring before accepting the larger mission of saving the President from history and Lee Harvey Oswald.
What he finds is a world that no longer exists, not always perfect, not always nice, but in a lot of ways appealing and simpler than today.
He also finds that the past won’t be changed without a fight.
The book wasn’t what I thought it would be when I started it (where I geeked out over mentions of Haven, Shawshank prison, and Derry Main right after the events of It), it became something bigger and more amazing. King has crafted an amazing story here that I will remember for a long time, and I have already started to miss the characters that I grew to know so well over the days that I read it.
We follow Jake across the States from Maine to Texas, where he waits vigilantly for his target, Lee Harvey Oswald to arrive at that fateful moment in Dealey Plaza.
To say the book was amazingly enjoyable would be to undersell it, the 800+ pages that form the tale move so quickly, and you become so wrapped up in the events and the characters and the time, which may not always be perfect, and not always good, but there’s something appealing about the simplicity of the era that made me nostalgic for it.
King has crafted a fantastic tale that hooked me with the concept, and then reeled me in with the story and characters.
I don’t want to give too much away, because that would take away from the experience that awaits you should you decide to pick up this great book, but let me say the last 100 pages my throat was tight, and on more than one occasion my eyes teared up.
The ending is wonderfully bittersweet tinged with a sense of hope, and I closed the cover on the book with a sad, but contented sigh, thinking, I love that book.
Thank you for sharing that story with us Mr. King.