I’ll admit that I didn’t devour this book, but at a little under 850 pages, it’s kind of impossible to. What I will admit to is enjoying the living hell out of it. This is one of those books that meanders a bit and that you want to do so. I picked up the book intending to immerse myself in the early sixties, to learn more about the assassination through the fictional story. Although I absolutely succeeded in that, what actually happened was that the part of the story that I found to be most compelling was the main character’s time in Jodie, TX. Reading about the simplicity of life in that time period was endearing on so many levels. I found Sadie and her no-nonsense practicality to be charming and wonderful and the changes she wrought in the main character made me smile every time. I was a little bummed out when he had to go spend time researching Oswald. There were times when I wanted to say, “psh, who really cares about him anyway,” only to remember that he was the reason I had picked up the book in the first place. It’s a testament to King’s genius that the parts of the book I found to be the most compelling were the parts that had absolutely nothing to do with the assassination, the interstitial areas that some authors leave by the wayside.
ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, THREE SHOTS RANG OUT IN DALLAS, PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED, AND THE WORLD CHANGED. WHAT IF YOU COULD CHANGE IT BACK?
In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King—who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer—takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life—like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963—turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.
You don’t actually expect to be disappointed when you reach the end of such an opus, but I’d be lying if I told you anything else. I wasn’t disappointed in the story. No, I was disappointed that there weren’t any more pages to read. I actually read the afterword because I couldn’t quite bring myself to put the book down just yet. If that doesn’t tell you how much I enjoyed the book, nothing really will.
One of the main things that truly astonished me about this book is Kings capacity to hold multiple linear strands of story in congruous lines. His attention to detail is mind boggling. I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but he can remember the exact make and caliber of a particular gun four hundred pages later. It’s this detail that makes this story so rich, a thread of meaning throughout the story, an echo that pricks at your mind, adding depth where none had been previously. In many ways this book shatters standard perceptions of space and time and I love it for that.
It seems ironic that I have so few words to describe how much I enjoyed this story, so I’ll leave you with this: although this story is long and intricately woven, it is compelling and enchanting. It’s truly remarkable. Sure there are a few areas where the pace lags a bit, but they’re important down the line. At this point, I think we can safely assume that King doesn’t do anything accidentally.
4.5 ink bottles.
Character Believability: 4.5 Buffys
Character Investibility: 4.5 Doctors
Pacing/Urgency/Tension: 4 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 5 Snyders
Language: 5 Feegles
Mystery: 4.5 Sherlocks
Book Introduction by Stephen King: