11/22/63: A Novel
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 readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-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 fifty 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.
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137. 11-22-63, a novel by Stephen King. American Literature 845 pages.
Is there anyone alive who hasn’t heard of Stephen King? From the Green Mile to the Shining to any of the more than sixty novels this man has written, he is a prolific author whose movies are widely read and converted into movies and television shows. I have never been a fan. My tastes to not turn to the strange side. I was surprised when my well-read colleague, Sarah Holub, brought in 11-22-63 for me to read. All she said was that it was a good book. Twenty pages into the novel, I was hooked and experiencing more reading delight than after reading 900 pages of other novels.
This is the story of Jake Epping, a high school English teacher. He receives a mysterious phone call from the owner of a diner to come over for a visit. He is surprised to note that Al, the owner of Al’s Diner, has become ill since the last time he saw him, short days ago. What Jake comes to learn is that Al has gone back in time. As a time traveler, he was gone for several years, although those of us in the present only noted his absence in minutes or hours. When he returns, he is dying of advanced lung cancer, and wants Jake to travel back into time to carry out a mission, a mission he has been unable to complete. Simply put, he wants Jake to travel into the past, and prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Is Jake skeptical? You bet, as any of us would be. That is, until he takes the four small steps down the time tunnel in the storage room of the diner and pops out in September of 1958, a world that is very different from his own in 2011.
I was endeared and engaged in every line of every page. Jake has a root beer during his first short test visit, and comments on the amazing quality of a root beer with no preservatives and a large head of foam that the server scrapes off with a wooden spoon. The local boys call him daddy-o, and children end their conversations with him with a ‘yes sir’ or a thank-you, sir. Dumbfounded, he returns to Al, who is not long for this world. He wants to conduct an experiment before obligating himself to the preservation of JFK: he will prevent the brutal murder of an entire family by a drunken, enraged father. I refuse to tell you what happens.
Jake becomes George Amberson when he returns to 1958 for an extended time. He teaches English at a high school in Texas, falls in love with an unlikely lady, and gambles a little bit to earn money because, after all, he has forehand knowledge about many sporting events, and who defeats whom.
Throughout this amazing novel, King makes astute and profound observations. He suggests that the past does not like to be changed. As Jake, a.k.a George heads toward his battle with the past, he discovers that it, the past, that is, will try to stop him from changing it. The past, he learns, is obdurate. I had to look that one up. It means stubborn or willingly resistant. Perhaps that is a good feature of the past. He also discovers that the past is connected to the past. People he meets in one location at one time will be similar to other people he meets in different locations, even down to the names they have in common. George refers to this as the past harmonizing with itself. That is another concept I have found myself loving to reflect upon.
Perhaps I have loved this book so much because I was alive during the Fifties when much of it is set. I tasted root beer like Jake/George loved, and walked into rooms filled with the blue haze caused by endless numbers of people smoke cigarettes, always, everywhere. I particularly liked a reference Jake makes to a short but brilliant short story by the author Ray Bradbury entitled The Sound of Thunder. In this short tale, hunters pay big money to travel back in time to hunt the fiercest trophy imaginable: Tyrannasaurus Rex. They are warned to stay on a carefully-marked trail; moving off that trail could change the entire course of history, even so small an event as stepping on a blade of grass. Let me end by
good storyUser Review - Nancy - Target
very entertaining , time travel , period memories of the times before the JFK assassination Read full review
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