Author: Stephen King
Source: Bought it from Barnes and Noble
November 22nd, 1963 was a rapid-fire sequence of indelible moments: Shots ring out; a president slumped over; a race to the Dallas hospital; an announcement, blood still fresh on the First Lady's dress. But what if President John F. Kennedy didn't have to die; if somehow his assassin could have been thwarted? For Maine schoolteacher Jake Epping, those hypothetical what if's become real possibilities when he walks through a portal to the past. Without special skills and still unfamiliar with his new/old surroundings, he struggles to discover a way to change the history he left. Like its Under the Dome predecessor, Stephen King's 960-page novel shows that this master of suspense is back at the top of his game.
I have been reading Stephen King for a very long time, since I was thirteen years old at least. My dad gave me Conroy, my mom gave me Herriot, but I found King all on my own. I have read and own all his books- I am a major fan, but not like the Annie Wilkes. The first book by King I read was It - and I was terrified but hooked. 11/22/63 even revisits some of King's other books- including a few from It. I think this will be an impossible book to review, the breadth of the novel was so complex and it was a 960 page book. But I will give it my best shot!
This book was captivating from the very start- Jake Eppling is a high school teacher in 2011, who teaches Adult Ed classes on the side. He eats at Al's diner, he has an alcoholic ex-wife, and is one day incredibly moved by a theme written by one of his Adult Ed. students, Harry Dunning, a custodian at his high school. The day that changed Harry's life, the assigned theme, is Halloween 1958, the day that his father killed his mother and siblings. Harry survived, but not after being hit in the foot and head with a sledgehammer, a move that gave him a permanent limp and slowed his thoughts. Jake awards Harry an A+, not because it was well written but because it made him feel. Jake takes Harry to Al's Diner, where we first meet Al.
Jake only really knows Al from the diner, so he is suprised to get a phone call at school from Al, who asks him to please meet with him, he needs to talk to Jake. When Jake gets to Al's house, he is shocked to see that Al has lost 40 pound overnight, and is dying of cancer, when just yesterday he saw Al, and Al was fine. Al sits him down, and tells Jake the story that gets the book really rolling - he has a "rabbit-hole" in his diner, a portal to the past, to September 1958. And no matter how long he spends in 1958, it has only been two minutes in 2011 when he comes back, and every time he goes back to 1958, it resets. So if he fixed something in the past, left for 2011, but then went back to 1958, what he had done the first time is undone. Jake does a trial period in 1958, spending a month in the past, trying to prevent the murder of Harry's family. Eventually Jake agrees to travel back in time, and stay until November of 1963, to stop the assination of President Kennedy, believing that this would prevent the death of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, and Vietnam. And so his journey into the past began.
Jake assumes the identity of George Amberson, and has a few adventures and roles before he really needs to settle in and focus on preventing the death of Kennedy. I was sad each time he moved on, when he shed a life for a new one. When he went from George Amberson, real estate agent, to a writer in Florida, if particularly saddened me for some reason. I fell in love with his last role, George Amberson, teacher, from Jodie, TX. George/Jake had some time to cool his heels in Jodie- half the time he spent spying on Oswald, the other half he spent living in Jodie, where he made wonderful friends and had a satisfying, happy life, that seemed even better than his 2011 life. And he fell in love with Sadie Dunhill in Jodie. Their romance was a bright, shining love, filled with trust, laughter, and dancing. And while you didn't want this to end, you knew it would, that George/Jake would leave to fulfill his purpose.
And in the end he does, and loses Sadie in the process. He saves Kennedy, and travels to 2011 to find that it was all for nothing. He lost five years and the love of his life to find the world is an even worse place, that his interference has caused major problems. He knows he has to undo what he has done, has to reset the world, and goes back to 1958 again. But this time he doesn't do anything - he doesn't save Harry's family, he doesn't visit Sadie. He spends a lonely month there and then goes back to 2011, where everything is normal again, or at least how he left it. He looks Sadie up, finds that she is 80 years old and still in Jodie. Jake visits her, and I sobbed my eyes out. And that's how it ends. In the beginning, Jake thought he was sacrificing a few years of his life to save Kennedy and make the world a better place; he ended up sacrificing his love to put the world back together.
This was the saddest book I have ever read by Stephen King, the love story within was so beautiful is it is hard to imagine it was written by the master of horror. The history was just as interesting - the stuff about Oswald and his cronies, his life, his wife and daughter. This book is amazing! My word of advice - it doesn't read like a nearly 1000 page book- it is such a good read you will get to the end and you won't believe that is it. You will want even more to this story!