Friday, February 10, 2012
Author: Stephen King
Enjoyment Rating: 10/10
Referral: I've heard lots of buzz about this one
Source: Audible for iPhone
Books I've read this year: 15
I've been listening to 11-22-63 for nearly a month. Usually, when it takes me a month to get through an audiobook, that's because the book is boring. That's not the case at all here. It's just because the book is 31 hours long. Even if I listened for an hour a day, it would take a full month to get through it. But now that I'm in the waning chapters, I don't want the story to end. I'd listen for another, well, if not 30, then at least another dozen hours.
I've never been a fan of Stephen King, mostly because I associated Stephen King with blood and guts and creepy monsters. Then I read his memoir this summer and was thoroughly impressed by his intelligence and the discipline he shows as a writer. When I downloaded this book, I knew it would be historical (the title refers to the Kennedy assassination) but I also expected it to be supernatural and icky. Instead, the book has taught me a lot about both history and humanity.
Jake Epping is a high school teacher in Maine-- a good guy in his mid-30s, recently divorced from his philandering, alcoholic wife. He gets a telephone call from Al, who runs the local diner, a place where the burgers are so cheap the the locals whisper that they're really catburgers. Al reveals to Jake that not only is the beef in the burgers real, but it's real beef from 1958, since Al has found a time-traveling window back to 1958 in the pantry of the diner. Al has been using the window for more than time travel; in fact, he's just come back from spending nearly five years in the late 50s and early 60s, hoping to thwart the Kennedy assassination. Unfortunately, while he was in "the land of ago," he got cancer, and he turns the responsibility over to Jake, who reluctantly agrees to go back and check it out for himself.
Jake soon sees that he has the power to change the past (he takes a few test runs) and that the clock resets each time he enters "the rabbit hole." He also learns that "the past is obdurate" and he runs into obstacles when he tries to change it. Gradually, he stops seeing himself as a time traveler and just starts living his life.
While the story itself is highly entertaining, King's a master at creating settings-- Derry, Maine, Jodie, Texas, and the small towns in between, are rich and vivid, and I feel like I've learned more about life in this era through this book than I did in any American history class I took. When I'm listening, I'm the time traveler, back in 1962 along with Jake, watching Lee Harvey Oswald.
It's not a perfect book-- I think it could be cut by about 100 pages without losing the richness of the detail, but it's a darn enjoyable one. I rarely give 10/10. This book deserves it.