Carrie (1974) – Stephen King

Stephen King’s first novel is on the book shelf this week. It has literally been decades since I read this one. In fact, I remember exactly where I was when I was reading the climax of the story. It stayed with me.

So I was happy to revisit it, and see how much I enjoyed it this time around.

It’s an interesting novel, in that there are no real chapter breaks. The book is simply divided into three parts, with the story interspersed with court documents, book excerpts and science journals all pontificating and exploring the case of Carrie White.

Set in the small town of Chamberlain, Maine, Carrie is a bit of an outsider, never able to fit in, mainly in part to her upbringing by her fanatical religious zealot of a mother. When her mother doesn’t even warn her about menstruation, she is terrified, and promptly made fun of, when she has her first period in the high school showers.

Bullied, and shamed by school mates and her own mother, Carrie is the personification of teen angst, but with a twist. Carrie discovers that she has telekinesis, the ability to move things, and she is finally beginning to assert herself.

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When one of the girls at the high school, Sue, feels bad about everything Carrie has gone through, she suggests that her own boyfriend, Tom, take her to the prom. This could be the chance where everything turns around for her.

But this is a Stephen King novel, even if it’s just his first.

There are those who aren’t happy about Carrie being invited, and still holding a grudge for punishments doled out for the shower incident, and a horrible plan is set in motion that will have terrifying consequences for the entire town.

Not quite as rapid-fire paced as some of his later books, and still developing his parenthetical inserts, the story is nonetheless involving, and entertaining, taking us into the lives of all the parties who are involved in the incident.

I’m a fan of both the book, and the film, but I have to lean more towards the film for its pacing and its choice of where to end the story. It makes for a tighter narrative.

In the novel, after the prom incident, Carrie continues her vengeance, and no one is safe.

King has long been one of my favorite writers, and it’s good to know that even his first story can still sweep me up in its telling. This wasn’t The first King book I read, but it was one of them, and it still has impact today.

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