Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Page 52: 11/22/63

Stephen King's newest novel, 11/22/63, is centered around one of those events that looms large and tragic in our history. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy traumatized a nation that was making the transition from a post World War II era to one defined by a young and vigorous President who offered hope for the future with the "New Frontier." Those of us who were alive when this happened will always remember where we were and what we were doing when the news broke from Dallas that shots had been fired at the motorcade as it passed by Dealey Plaza that fateful Friday. Walter Cronkite, our much respected broadcaster on CBS, had tears in his eyes when he told us President Kennedy had died from his wounds.

Stephen King brings us back to that period in time in his own inimitable style. The novel begins during the present as we are introduced to Jake, a divorced high school English teacher in a small town in Maine. Well, after all this is Stephen King, where else would Jake live? One of Jake's friends is Al who owns a diner that Jake frequents. Final exams are over and the summer break is just about to begin when Al shares a secret with Jake. Al's diner has a time portal in the storeroom that takes you back to 1958. The odd thing Al tells Jake is that every time he goes through the portal there is a complete reset. No matter what you may have done to change things, it all goes back to the original version when you return through the portal to 1958 again.  Al has been buying his ground beef at 1958 prices and selling it cheap in 2011, and still making a good profit.  In fact, it is the same ground beef he buys over and over due to the reset phenomenon.  And, oh yes, no matter how long Al is back in time only a few minutes have passed when he returns to 2011.

Jake notices Al has aged quite a bit lately and looks terrible. Al tells Jake he has lung cancer and not much time left. He wants to entrust Jake with the secret and finish a task he was unable to complete. Al wants Jake to go back to 1958 and stay long enough to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting President Kennedy. Al is fading fast and sends Jake through the time portal on a test run. The story moves pretty fast from this point and just gets better chapter by chapter.

When Jake goes back to 1958 he has some preliminary business to take care of in Derry where we meet a couple of characters from a previous novel. King fans will recognize them easily. Al warned Jake that the past seems reluctant to be changed and this proves to be all too true time and again. Jake has five years to prepare to stop Oswald and spends some of his time in a small town in Texas where he meets Sadie and falls in love. King is not known best for being a romantic, but he does a quite satisfactory job with Jake and Sadie.

This book is Stephen King as the "Grand Master" of horror and the macabre, and he does not disappoint. In my opinion this is one of his "A" level novels. I won't say any more about the plot or story so as not to be a spoiler. The novel 11/22/63 is a great King novel with plenty of fascinating historical information woven into the story. This is a must read for Stephen King fans and a great read for new ones. Let me know how you like it.

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