On November 22, 1963 I was sitting in my 7th grade classroom, participating in an art project, a message was sent in from the principal’s office, the President had just been shot. The only other things I remember about being in school that afternoon is that my best friend dropped her bottle of black ink and that my teacher gave me permission to go to the school library, where my mother was volunteering that afternoon. That day and watching the televised events of the following three days changed my life, as it did for many of my generation.
Stephen King is one of the most prolific authors writing today. Horror, science fiction and fantasy are not genres I enjoy reading so that is why I had not chosen to select one of his titles for my bedside table. However the premise of this book was intriguing, as I am one of many, along with King, who have wondered how would the world be different if John Fitzgerald Kennedy had not been assassinated. I’ve always thought I should give King a try so I took this opportunity to do so.
I found 11/22/63: A Novel both fascinating and tedious. King is an excellent story teller. I was hooked from Chapter 1 and finished all 849 pages. I found it to be repetitive, so in my opinion it could have been just as good a story with 200 less pages.
The main character, Jake Epping, by stepping through a time portal can return to 1958. He then has 5 years to decide if Lee Harvey Oswald is a lone gunman (there are the conspiracy theories he needs to investigate) and if he is, how can Jake stop him. Jake has a personal mission that motivates him has well. But over and over again, adding to the suspense of the novel, he is reminded that “the past is resistant to change.”
Five years is a long time so it is not surprising when Jake falls in love with Sadie. She also needs to be rescued and have her future changed. Will he be able to stay in the past with Sadie or will she be able to move forward 48 years with him? The questions keep you reading. The final question is will he use his ability to go back, as every step through the portal resets the past, so if you don’t like the outcome you can change it again.
What will 2011 be like if John F. Kennedy had lived? King has an interesting alternative history to recount. However, this is a work of fiction so it is a history we will never know.
I doubt I will read another of King’s books although I have had others tell me to give The Stand a try, all 1153 pages of it. Maybe in my future life I will.
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