Melanie and I are not fans of horror. Why does someone want to be scared on purpose? I don’t get it. We are becoming bigger fans of Stephen King though. Growing up I loved Stand by Me which was based on King’s The Body. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption was excellent. The most helpful book I’ve ever read about how to write is King’s (see my list of recommended books in the sidebar).
We just finished listening to 11/22/63 on audiobook and both of us really loved it. The basic plot is so well known that I won’t spoil anything by saying that this is a book about time travel and trying to stop the assassination of JFK. Those of you who just said, “Ooooh! That sounds good!” are in for a treat. Those who are about to click away from this article, just wait.
King really knows how to write compelling characters. Within the first thirty minutes of listening, we were hooked and had to know what happened to these people next. It is easy to identify with these folks and you care about what is happening to them. There are no action heroes or brilliant detectives. You experience the story of mostly normal people having normal lives with the monkey wrench that one of them is from the future. Don’t be confused though there is action, danger, and romance – just not of the supernatural monster-y sort.
The biggest surprise to me was how compelling the background stories of a 2011 man just getting through life in the 50’s and 60’s were. This book is very long and it takes its sweet time getting to the main story, but you will not care. That part is almost secondary. Maybe it is secondary. The coolest thing King achieves with this book is putting present-day you in the 50’s with a little bit of cash, some knowledge, and a goal several years down the road. Where would you live? What would you eat? How would you talk? What would you do with your time? Who would you seek out? Who would you avoid?
It is clear that King either spent a lot of time researching the assassination or had an army of helpers. All of this detail really helps flesh out the setting of this book. I can’t overstate it. My favorite character in this book is the time period. The abundance of these inside, and sometimes personal, facts really anchors the main character in the true-life storyline of Lee Harvey Oswald. King has so much good info in fact, that the afterward by the author detailing more of the history surrounding the assassination is one of the best parts of the book. Be sure to read it.
If you are looking to settle down with a good fiction book for a while, I invite you to give this one try.
Oh, and I know at least one person is going to be thinking it so I’ll just answer now. No, the ending does not suck. 🙂