11/22/63 by Stephen King
Hardcover 849 pages
This was my first Stephen King book. I have hesitated reading him before (even though I’ve heard how wonderful he is at engaging his audience) because I don’t like horror novels. Luckily for me, King also write non-horror books, so I decided to give this one a try. First of all, the cover was a great sell — who wouldn’t want to know what the world would be like if Kennedy hadn’t been killed? Would Bobby have lived as well? If so, one (who has paid attention in history class) would imagine how much different our country would have been in the decades that followed that fateful day in 1963. But it wasn’t just that which drew me to the book, it was idea of traveling back in time to try to rectify wrongs. We’re told on the cover flap that Jake Epping (the protagonist) is first tempted to use the rabbit hole he has been introduced to in order to save someone much closer to his heart than Kennedy — a elderly janitor at the school where he teaches, who walks with a limp for a tragic reason and is made fun of by the teenagers at the high school where he works. What happens in this story, as I was hoping, is a study of what would happen if we could go back and change the parts of the past for what, we hope, would be the better. This is a discussion that could fill a semester-long philosophy course, so I applaud King for making grand points in less than 1,000 pages. I also applaud him for keeping me enthralled most of the time (there were a few parts that I felt could have been edited down, but by the end I understood why he felt the need to take the time for us to get to know the characters and relationships they had with each other). I am recommending this to anyone I know who can handle a book over 500 pages — it won’t feel that long (besides the hand cramping that may take place from holding it).
If you have a book club that would possibly be able to read such a chunkster — this would make for some GREAT conversation! And if you have a long plane/train/car ride ahead of you this is sure to keep you occupied. For travel, however, might I recommend getting it on an e-reader or listening to it on audio? It is quite heavy and would take up a bit of room in your bag. On that note, head over to BookRiot today to see the Airplane Reading List I’ve come up with thanks to help from readers! (*Link will be live after 6:15 am PST/ 9:15 am EST.)
THE REST OF THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS AND IS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY READ THE BOOK, PLEASE ALSO NOTE THAT SOME OF THE COMMENTS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS AS PEOPLE MIGHT BE DISCUSSING POINTS THAT I’VE RAISED BELOW… OR OTHERS THAT THEY’VE TAKEN FROM THE BOOK:
I was completely intrigued by the prospect of going back in time to save people that you love (or a country that you live in). Along the way this book had me trying to think ahead of King’s narrative to the catastrophes that would be set in motion by changing the past. I’m glad he did not let all work out for good but rather showed us that there seems to need to be some balance to the universe (which he used by incorporating the Butterfly Effect). Did anyone else like this, or were you hoping he would end it more happily?
Another thing that really touched my heart was the decision that Jake had to make about leaving Sadie in the past. Sacrificing something dear to you (that you actually know you could have) for the greater good of the human population would not be easy — even though it may sound like it should be. We all know the saying “the heart wants what the heart wants”; it’s used because it’s true. What’s worse is that, in a way, this was a death to Jake (since he couldn’t have Sadie in his life, even if she lived) — and he had to make the decision to let it happen. Many of you who read this blog have seen me mention that I lost my dad in an accident when I was seven, so this was at the forefront of my mind while reading the end of this book. I’m not sure how powerfully it hit home for people who haven’t had that kind of loss (the kind that you actually could change by warning them off, or changing the course of a day), but it hit me squarely in the heart when Jake was making his final decision. I can honestly say I have no idea if I would be capable of walking away from a chance to save my father and see what life would have been like actually growing up with a dad. My dad. I would like to say I’d be the kind of person who would sacrifice for the rest of the world, but it would take all of my strength to do it – and I would never get over knowing that I gave up a chance to have my happiness. On the other hand, over the years, I’ve also played through what might have (and probably would have) been different had he lived; my relationships with my mom and brother, their relationships with each other, my relationships with my uncle and grandparents, etc… and most of all, me. Would I be a completely different person? It wouldn’t be far-fetched to think I’d be, at least, somewhat different – and who knows if it would be for the better or the worse? And would my dad have died anyway that day, or week, or month, just in a different way (I had never thought of this possibility before it was brought up in this book, even after extensively thinking about this subject for the past almost quarter of a century)? All this to say that I loved, loved, loved, King’s exploration and observations in these areas. Did anyone else go into such a philosophical place while reading this – or am I the only drama queen here?
If I could change one thing about the book, I would have had Jake spend less time in Derry… if only because we went there twice and we already knew what happened in the mundane areas (meeting people, getting sick, etc.). I think the second visit could have been summed up quicker (if only because my hands cramped the whole time I was reading this monster of a heavy book). Anything you would have changed or didn’t care for about this book?