This week’s visit to the Book Shelf brings me another early King classic. Apparently he wrote this one quickly, and was under the influence while he did, and doesn’t even remember it. Unlike some of his other earlier works, this one didn’t wow me, and for the first time I came across a King story that I didn’t love, or at least enjoy a lot.
There are moments in the book that I really love, but overall, this one wasn’t as engrossing as his other tales.
The novel details a confluence of events, and the characters who live through them so that Donna Trenton and her son Tad are stuck in a Ford Pinto in a remote farmyard, trapped there by a busted valve, and a rabid Saint Bernard named Cujo.
The first half of the novel introduces us to all the characters who will play their parts, and the events that lead them away from or to the remote Camber residence where Cujo makes his home. We meet Donna’s husband, an ad man named Vic who is on the verge of losing one of his biggest accounts and has to leave the remote town of Castle Rock to save his livelihood.
We meet Brett Camber, and his mother Charity, who finally gets a bit of a getaway from the Camber residence, and Joe Camber, a crude, abusive mechanic, who has plans of his own.
A number of events play out as Donna and Tad take the damaged Pinto out to the Camber farm for a repair job, marooning them there in the heat, as Cujo stalks them.
There is also a hint of supernatural undertones as King builds horrific tension by recalling a cop that went bad in the area and committed a series of murders, as well as the childhood fear of the monster in the closet – but young Tad’s closet door seems to keep swinging open on its own, and there seems to be the sensation of an animalistic presence within it.
The story doesn’t stay exclusively with Donna and Tad in the second half of the book, other things are going on as well, and the actual sequences focusing on the ruined Pinto and the rabid dog are rather short – but they are definitely the highlight of the novel, as King brings to life a believably terrifying creation in Cujo.
And while it’s nice to meet some of the residents of Castle Rock, a fictional town that would be revisited time and again by King, I would have liked some more sequences as woman and dog square off against one another.
There are some truly terrifying moments in this book, and the ending is brilliant, one of King’s strongest, and I love that he wasn’t afraid to go as dark as he did.
Not my favourite King tale, but glad to check this one off the list.