11/22/63 by Stephen King


Historical RomanceParanormal SuspenseTime Travel11/22/63 by Stephen King 11/22/63
Stephen King; Thorndike Press 2011

Jake Epping is an English teacher at the high school in Lisbon Falls, Maine. It’s the end of the school year when he gets a phone call from the owner of his favorite local burger diner. Al Templeton tells Jake an impossible story. He has a portal in the back of his kitchen where he leaves 2011 and steps into 1958. He has Jake test it. Jake finds himself in Lisbon Falls 53 years earlier than it was a few minutes ago.

When Jake returns to the restaurant Al presents him with an amazing suggestion. Al is dying of lung cancer. He wants Jake to take his place – and save President Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. Jake is floored. Al says the past can be changed. Jake wants to try it on one of his GED students. The man had been injured as a child. Jake wants to stop the person responsible for the injury. After a successful trial, Jake seriously considers Al’s dream.

So Jake finds himself in the land of Ago as George Amberson. He has to wait 4 years before he can determine whether Lee Oswald was working alone or if there really was a conspiracy. He pretends to have a small inheritance and is writing a book. He moves to Florida a while, then to Texas. He quickly learns that the past is obdurate. Things repeat themselves in small ways. Small obstacles are put in his way. The closer he gets to November, 1963, the stronger and more dangerous the obstacles are.

Jake is a born teacher. As he waits and can do nothing until 1962 or so, he goes back to teaching. He gets a mail order college degree and starts as a substitute teacher in Florida. He moves to Jodie, Texas, a small town outside of Dallas. He quickly gets involved in small town life and is able to teach full time for a year. He forms relationships he’ll never forget. But he has to leave, go to Dallas, and remove any threat to President Kennedy before November, 1963 arrives.

Stephen King puts his extensive imagination to wonderful use in 11/22/63. He uses time travel, swing dance, sock hops, bookies, babies, classic cars (which are new when Jake sees them), cigarette haze, and the historical references from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He refers to the politics and racism of the time.

Americans’ mores were very different 50 years ago. Morals are the same but how they were handled was very different. Political correctness as we know it in the 21st century is nowhere around. The smoking cancer warning didn’t get issued until the mid ’60s. King shows all of the differences through his main character’s first person narrative observations.

11/22/63 is a long, involved book (over 800 pages). They’re all worth it to bring the novel to life. I listened to it until I had to finish it sooner than my normal car trips would take me. But the copy wasn’t on the library shelf. I brought it in from my car, loaded the last disk into my computer, and finished the last two or three hours (probably not more than 100 printed pages…). Craig Wasson brings King’s characters to life, especially Jake as he tells the story. Occasionally Jake gives hints to the future of his story, the types of teasers that either keep the reader pulled in or the type that slip by unnoticed until they come back up.

At times 11/22/63 gets gory. At times the people get intimate. The language is often coarse. In other words, 11/22/63 is like life. It feels like it and reads like it. There are probably holes and small problems with King’s book. But they didn’t stand out to me and haven’t stayed in my head. Do you like recent historical fiction? Do you like thrillers? Do you like science fiction? Do you like political intrigue? How about a romance? King gives it all in 11/22/63.

Notice: Non-graphic violence, Strong language, Suggestive dialogue or situations

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