Never in my life did I think I’d read two Stephen King books in one year. You might remember that last spring my book club Chicks on Books read Full Dark No Stars … and that, surprising to me, I loved it. Well, it’s happened again, and this time we decided on 11/22/63. One English teacher friend said it was the best novel he’d read in the past year … and (maybe this time not so surprising) I loved it. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a time travel fan–Time Travelers Wife, Time and Again, From Time to Time–so my standards are high. 11/22/63 didn’t disappoint.
High school English teacher Jake Epping, (okay, King might have had me right there!), still a bit shaky from his divorce,is anticipating a summer free from any encumbrance. Local diner owner Al Templeton, however, has designs on Jake’s time. In what is apparently his dying wish, he asks Jake to travel back to November 11, 1963 to stop Kennedy’s assassination. Al, it seems, has been traveling back to the early sixties for years, supplying his diner with a never-ending supply of hamburger at fifty-year-old prices. Knowing the portal could be an incredible gift to humankind, Al wants to do more. Forestalling Kennedy’s assassination might prevent Vietnam, the Cold War, and who knows what else? And so disbelieving, humoring, curious, and drawn, Jake takes those steps in Al’s cooler–it is Al’s dying wish, after all–and finds himself in 1958.
And so starts Jake’s journey back and forth in time. And so starts the Butterfly Effect–that condition in chaos theory that contends even a small change in one place can affect large differences in another state. By bits and pieces, patches and random stitches, Jake begins to experience the changes his presence makes. He can prevent a man from murdering a family–but at what cost? He can stop his true love’s horrific death–but to what end?
This is one post that won’t deal with much of the plot. King is first and foremost a storyteller–no long passages of poetic prose here or any avant-garde conventions found in so many contemporary novels. Just a good, satisfying story with a beginning, middle, and oh-so-tender (and tear inducing) end.
* I read this one using my Kindle app–849 pages makes for one thick book!