11/22/63

11/22/63 - Stephen King I am a little bit embarrassed to admit that this is the first Stephen King book I have ever read (aside from Rose Madder which I began reading when I was about 11 until my mother asked me before bed one night "what's this about, honey" and I described it in great detail and she immediately vetoed that selection right out of my life) and being a fellow Maine native who grew up about 30 minutes from King's hometown of Bangor, frequently driving by the King mansion just to peep the gargoyles keeping watch on the front gate, this is even more shameful of an admission. In fact, Stephen King was a former English teacher at my high school, Hampden Academy (go Broncos!), although this was many years before I was a student there, and my childhood best friends father, who was "a friend of Bill's" as they say, used to see King at local meetings of the anonymous variety. With so few degrees of separation between me and the famous author you would think I would have been inclined to read one of his books much sooner especially considering I've enjoyed many of the film adaptations and always appreciate the local references that only a native would pick up on, so why it is that i'm just now completing one of his legendary books is beyond me. But after reading 11/22/63 I wish I had done so much sooner. This book was fantastic!

11/22/63 isn't really from my typical genre of choice, although I find that I'm saying that so often in my reviews lately that maybe i really don't have a genre of choice any more or at the very least I can say I'll try anything once. Considering Stephen King wrote this book I was expecting a horror novel but this wasn't the case, at least not in the typical blood and gore and haunted house sense. It was more scary because it made you think about the repercussions that particular events, even very small and seemingly insignificant ones, can have on the future of not only our own lives but the fate of the whole world. The butterfly effect was brought up several times throughout this book- the theory that a butterfly's wings fluttering on one side of the world could result in an earthquake on the other- and it really makes one think about cause and effect and actions having reactions and honestly that can be much more frightening than any Hollywood produced horror if the results are negative.

In general this was a story about a guy named Jake who is introduced to a way to travel back in time to 1958. No matter how long he's stays in the past when he returns to 2011 only 2 minutes will have passed but, by returning, he also "resets" everything in the past as if he'd never been there and whatever changes were caused by his presence will be undone thus giving him infinite chances to change the past... but at what cost to the present (refer back to the butterfly effect)? So Jake goes back with the mission to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating President Kennedy on 11/22/63 with the assumption that will make the world, past, present and future, a better place. This turns out to be a difficult task as he quickly learns that the past has a way of protecting itself and the larger the event that he is trying to change the more the past will resist.

During the 5 years that Jake is in the past he meets and falls in love with a young lady named Sadie. She beings to question if he is who is says and quickly suspects he is keeping some major secrets from her. I found this part to be a little far fetched. See Jake as assumed the identity of George Amberson, he gets a teaching degree from a degree mill and forges his references and gets a job teaching at a high school where he eventually meets Sadie. Her suspicions arise when he frequently uses phrases from 2011 that she has never heard used before and peak when he hums a song with lyrics that would have been banned from radio in the conservative early 60's. I wasn't entiley convinced that this would have actually been a game changer in their relationship and I feel like Jake (aka George) could have easily explained it away as the way folks spoke back home in Wisconsin, where he claimed to be from. But that wasn't how it went down and I don't want to give away any spoilers in this review but just for the record that was my only real complaint about the novel and it's a very minor one.

All together I found this book to be excellent. It held my attention and often kept me right on the edge of my seat. Just when I thought I had it figured out something completely unexpected happened and looking back there is no way I could have predicted the outcome and I feel like I definitely got my money's worth. Being a child of the 80's myself I also got an adequate history lesson about what life was like in the late 50's early 60's, communism, Russia, Cuba during the reign of Castro, the missile crisis and threat of WWIII, the crookedness of J Edgar Hoover and friends, and a little bit about politics but from what I can see, in that regard, only the names have changed. In the "Afterward" chapter King said that he tried to keep the historical facts as accurate as possible and that extensive reserarch went into this novel and I was very impressed with the authenticity of history and the way he incorporated it into a page turner. If only my high school history class could have been so engaging.

I highly recommend this book, look forward to binging on the mini series adaptation of it on Hulu, and will definitely have to include many more Stephen King's book in my "read" shelf in the near future.