Since getting back into the swing of teaching over the last months, my blog has had some downtime. That's not to say that my love of reading took any time off, though! I've read some spectacular books recently and it's about time I got my butt back into the blogosphere. Hopefully y'all haven't forgotten all about li'l old me!
So! Back to it!
I'm kicking of my return to reviews with a book by the Master (all hail the King! Huzzah!).
- Title: 11/22/63
- Author: Stephen King
- Narrated by: Craig Wasson
- Format: Audiobook (from Audible)
- Listening Length: 30 hours and 44 minutes
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: November 8, 2011
Taken from Audible
On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back?
In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King - who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer - takes listeners on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a 35-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away: a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life - like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963 - turning on a dime.
Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession - to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world - of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading, eventually of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful - and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.
Anyone who knows anything about me will know that Stephen King is my hero. I've read everything he's ever written except for whatever masterpieces he's got stowed away in his drawers... his desk drawers, people. Get your minds out of the gutter! So you'll have to excuse me if I ever gush about him.
I'm an audiobook fanatic. I confess, I'm an addict. I await the first of every month when my Audible.com credit arrives and then I spend far too many hours going through my many book-shaped wishlists and all my friend-bloggers' reviews just to choose which book I get to savour. I drive quite a bit every day, and where that used to be a chore, now it's a pleasure because it means I get to sink into a story. 11/22/63 had me floating quite happily in its depths.
At nearly 31 hours in length, this was a fairly hefty listen, but King's expertise makes you wish that the story would never end. I'm familiar with his style and still he manages to keep me on the edge of my seat. Although I predicted much of the narrative, those unaccustomed to King's "take-no-prisoners" approach to telling a tale might not. Even if you're the sort of person who can always predict the last scene of the movie, so to speak, there's a lot more to this book than a beginning, middle and end. King's characters were vivid and so realistically composed that it felt like they could up and walk right out of the pages. Some of them, like the infamous Lee Harvey Oswald, were drawn from life so perhaps that was to be expected. Others, however, such as the first-person protagonist, Jake, were equally real to me. I'm sure that Craig Wasson's narration helped. He rocked.
As a life-long inhabitant of Wales, my knowledge of the Kennedy assassination was pretty much limited to a video I was shown in History in year nine. Oh, and I think I saw a documentary on The Discovery Channel once. I'm now in danger of mistaking King's fictionalised history for reality, but still, I feel like I learned a lot from 11/22/63! Sure, I learned about some key dates and figures in American history, but more importantly I learned something about writing. King, in pretty much all of his works, teaches prospective writers that there's one key thing you have to do to your protagonists in order to make them someone readers want to read about. You have to torture them.
You have to throw hurdle after hurdle in their path and sometimes they have to stumble at them. But then, scraped knees and all, they've gotta keep an running. Sucks for them, eh?
My love for King is obdurate (book-related joke...), so he gets five stars from me!