11/22/63 by Stephen King

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed forever.

If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you?
Would the consequences be worth it?

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

Explore the Possibilities.. (From Goodreads)

Time travelling books can be a little problematic because if you can travel back in time, you should theoretically be able to avoid lots of problems, fix things to make a better world and then go back to a lovely all-better-present and feel like a hero.

As movies like Back to the Future show however, things don’t always work out that way. Stephen King is quite ingenious in the way he makes changing the past a bit more difficult and complicated than with just the power to travel back in time.

As with his other novels, this one goes on for a few hundred pages and King puts a lot of effort into his characters There was a bit of a nod towards his usual haunt of Derry, Maine and a rather large nod to It and the clown Pennywise who terrorised the little children – I thought that this was a little self-indulgent but others may find it a bit of a wink to his loyal readers who have stuck around for the last few decades.

The one thing that I found a little annoying but which certainly adds to the tension and adrenaline-inducing-fright for which King is famous, is the constant foreshadowing in the book.

The story is written in first person narration, post-event so there are many instances of “If only I had known” etc which are just there to get the heart racing and do not offer much else to the plot. I usually think of these tricks as manipulative but they were not too bad.

No matter what his weaknesses, King is a masterful storyteller and I was sad to see this story end. He had to be quite creative to find a way to make it problematic to travel back in time but he managed it quite well. A clever and fun read which I enjoyed for quite a while.

One response to “11/22/63 by Stephen King”

  1. Great review, Joanne!

    I didn’t mind the foreshadowing that much – I didn’t really notice it. I forgot about the idea that history wasn’t so easy to change – that was indeed a genius idea! For me, the book was too long, but saying that, I enjoyed it a lot.

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