January 28, 2016

Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King


Title: 11/22/63

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Gallery Press

Date of Publication: 2012

Number of Pages: 849

Find it at: Book Depository

Summary

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away...but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke... Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten...and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

Review

11/22/63 has been sitting on my TBR list almost since its publication. Think about it, it's written by Stephen King, it's a time travel novel and one that has to do with history, how can it disappoint? I finally got to read it and I'm glad that I've started the new reading year with this novel.

Jake Epping is an English teacher. He is invited by the owner of his favourite diner, Al, to go back in time in a portal that he had accidentally found. This portal always leads to a day in September 1958. But Al has a particular plan for Jake. He needs him to remain in the late fifties and save Kennedy in 1963. Of course, this doesn't come as a surprise since both the title and the cover of the novel are huge pointers of this fact.

But what we truly get in 11/22/63 is a portrayal of an era so different from this one. The research that Stephen King made for the construction of this world is mindblowing. Even the slightest detail is in order. You can only take a look at the Play(list) by the Book to figure out in what extent we emerge in life in the late fifties and early sixties. Indeed, like Jake, we have to adapt to the way the people talked back then, to the things they were listening to, to what was entertaining to them, to their morals. Jake is supposed to live almost five years there, so he has to create a new life. This includes things like getting an apartment, getting a job and most importantly to interact with people and maybe be friendly with some of them.

Being able to travel to the past enables Jake to change some things he doesn't like. First of all, he decides to change the fate of Harry Dunning, one of his adult students, and his family, before going to Dallas. In this way, he will find out how the past reacts to change. The answer is badly. The past will throw anything at him, in order to make him fail. This side story, along with another one, much shorter, could make a novel of their own.

After taking care of this, Jake is ready to move to Texas and wait for Lee Harvey Oswald to return to the USA. According to King's description, Dallas isn't the right place for Jake, so he moves to a smaller town nearby named Jodie. Before too long, he is accepted by this community and feels like home. On top of that, he meets Sadie and falls in love with her. This is where the biggest part of the novel takes place. Jake's life in Jodie is so important to the story that sometimes I forgot why he traveled through time, which might be my only complaint about the whole novel. At times, the assassination of Kennedy felt like a secondary subplot in Jake's adventures, but the climax leading to that fateful day was so intense that it was ultimately rewarding.

The main characters, Jake and Sadie, are both well-developed. Jake, on the one hand, is rational and manages not to lose his mind, although all of these things keep happening to him. He understands perfectly well that the past doesn't want to change, but he is persistent and driven. Ok, sometimes he loses his focus but in the end he remembers the reason for his visit in 1960's. Sadie, on the other hand, has a complicated character. Her past makes her afraid of giving in to Jake, plus she senses that he has secrets of his own. I admired her bravery towards the end of 11/22/63.

We also learn many things about the Oswald family. I like the fact that we get to know Lee as a human, able to love and be afraid. But once again I feel that I learnt more about his wife, Marina, rather than the man himself. Kennedy is only present in a couple of scenes and thus, I couldn't form an impression of him. The other secondary characters only appear here and there. Some are likeable enough, others not so much. But I missed Al towards the end of the novel. In fact, we never learn what happened to him after Jake returned to the present.

All in all, 11/22/63 is a great time travel novel. It has all the questions and paradoxes that a visit in the past can cause. Even the slightest change might be enough for unpredictable things to happen. It also has some intense and nail-biting moments and a very good ending. Although it's quite lengthy, if you are on the lookout for a thriller, then this is the novel for you.


This counts as a novel from North America in the 2016 Reading Challenge.

18 comments:

  1. Wow, this review blew me away. This book sounds amazing. I can't quite find very many good time travel novels, but this one is going on my list! From the way you described Jake, I can tell he's a good character. Sadie appeals to me too, I love a complicated character to spice up the story. Anyway, fabulous review. I'm definitely going to check out this book :D

    ~Noor

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    1. Thank you so much! This novel is certainly one of my favourite time travel books, you should check it out! And the characters are a big plus to the story :)

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  2. Glad to hear Mr. King has created a great Novel. I tend to shy away from historical fiction, but I also love a great time travel story. Great Review!

    Tori @InToriLex

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    1. Thank you! The time travel element makes the story so unique. It's not just historical fiction, it's a great thriller :)

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  3. I loved this book. It really blew me away. My book club just picked it and I couldn't be more thrilled. And I've already ready it, bonus!

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    1. Lucky you! I wouldn't actually mind rereading it, after a while :)

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  4. This book sounds amazing! I have had it sitting on my TBR shelf since it was published just like you. I do love the idea of time travel and the historical elements.

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    1. It's a recipe for success! And now I wonder what took me so long to pick it up?

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  5. This book sounds fantastic and looks like you enjoyed it. I want to read this after seeing your review but one big question before that - as this is a Stephen King novel so does it have anything to do with horror? As in Goodreads under the genres it says 'horror' so I did not pick it up. So, please advice :)

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    1. Generally Stephen King's books are described as horror and most of them are. But there are other novels of his that have more suspence and thriller elements, like this one and Joyland. Apart from the portal, there isn't really anything else supernatural in the whole book. Of course, there are a couple of scenes with violence, but nothing too strong. I strongly recommend it to you :)

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    2. Thank you!! I am definitely picking it up :)

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    3. Let me know when you read it :)

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  6. Thank you for visiting my blog :)
    I have to say,even though I am a huge King fan,I did not hear about this book *cowers in shame* so I am glad I stumbled upon it here :D
    Time travel,well developed characters and King in general make me want to read the book! I will definitely give it a go :)

    aluminah.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you so much! This book has so many good points! If you are a Stephen King fan, then you'll discover that in 11/22/63 he's at his best :)

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  7. I've not read this book but your review makes me want to! Great job!

    Carrie @The Book Goddess

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  8. Oh I love the idea of Stephen King's novels, but can never really get into them myself. Maybe I'll read this one, I've been thinking about thrillers for a while :)

    Alex @ Book Chick

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