11/22/63

I think Stephen King’s latest novel, 11/22/63, is 600 pages too long.

Oh my God.

Do you think he heard me say that? Is he on his way right now, hurtling along fog choked freeways on a motorcycle made from human bones, roaring past tidy station wagons full of snot-nosed kids and travel weary parents? Is Stephen King going to hide under my bed and yank on my toes in the dark because I think his latest epic novel is a little too long? He’s still my writing hero. I’m just saying….849 pages. Really?

Okay, I admit Stephen King has reached deity status in my mind the way Oprah Winfrey has been nearly canonized by her followers. I think Oprah can have people killed. Seriously. Except she wouldn’t send someone to snub you out. She’d do it herself. She’d hide under your bed and just when you’re falling asleep there would be a deep shout of No, there aren’t any keys to a Ford Taurus under your bed or a free subscription to my magazine! I heard you hated my book of the month selection!! I’m here for revenge because I’m OOOPPPRRRAHHH!!!!!

11/22/63 is about time travel. In the back office of an unassuming greasy spoon diner is a rabbit- hole, a portal into 1958. Jake Epping, a divorced high school English teacher, is given the task of going back to November 22, 1963 to stop President Kennedy’s assassination. No matter how long Jake stays on the other side (first in 1958 Maine and then 1958-1963 in Texas) when he comes back he’s only been gone 2 minutes.

He goes on a couple of dry runs to 1958, staying longer and longer and testing the theory that even the smallest change to the past can affect the future. Even using a phrase such as freaking out in 1958 can change the future. Or absent-mindedly singing a song that won’t be written for another 50 years. I don’t think Cee-Lo Green’s summer hit (c’mon….you know which one I’m talking about) would have had a good reception.

What if Lee Harvey Oswald was killed before he could assassinate JFK? What if the assassination was prevented, what might happen a few years later? What if he was 3 minutes too late?

Armed with knowledge from 2011, Jake spends the 4 and a half years leading up to Kennedy’s assassination by learning everything he can about Oswald, where he lives, whom he associates with, how he treats his wife and daughter. Along the way Jake gets a job at a high school in a small Texas town and becomes close with several other teachers. He even falls in love with a librarian who has a dark past (don’t we all?).

Just when I thought I knew where the novel was going, I’d get a surprise I didn’t see coming. I was thinking: Where are you going with this, Stephen King? Where else can you go with it? Where else???? I was so, so wrong. I had no idea how it would end and that’s why I think it’s one of his best endings.

If you’ve ever thought (or if you’re like me dwelled) about being able to change history I think you’ll read this book and come away with more what ifs? than you thought imaginable.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find my own rabbit-hole to the past and go back to September 2007 and unmeet somebody. That shouldn’t effect the present, right?

Right?

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library.

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