Gripping, intense, a page-turner, vivid, are just a few of the words I use to describe 11/22/63, By Stephen King.
From the first page until the last, I could not put the book down, and that is saying a lot, because the book has almost 900 pages!
The story line revolves around the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and how the protagonist, Jake Epping, becomes involved in the past in ways he never imagined. He is privy to a wormhole of sorts, that is located in the back of an old diner, owned by a man named Al. Through this portal, he is able to transcend time, from Maine in the present year of 2011, to September 9, 1958.
He initially decides to go back in time in order to right a wrong, the massacre of a janitor’s family, by the janitor’s father. This journey leads to another one, and Jake is convinced by Al, to fulfill a mission, that of stopping the Kennedy assassination.
The novel relays, step by step, how Jake tries to stop the Kennedy assassination through his travels within alternate realities. He transitions, emotionally and mentally with each passage back in time. He could be gone for hours or days, but when he returns to the present in 2011, only two minutes have passed by. When returning to the present things take on a different perception. Varied layers and subtleties occur during those two minutes.
During his travels he meets Sadie, and they eventually fall in love. This love will haunt him in both the past and the present, in ways the reader can not imagine.
I was intrigued with how Jake became involved with Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated Kennedy. It was fascinating to read about some of Oswald’s background, as far as residences and his daily comings and goings. I remember reading newspaper articles, and watching the TV to garner more information on the man.
Since that time period, much more has been learned about Oswald, the assassination, and the events preceding it. King goes further, and more in depth on Oswald, and his research shows his impeccable attention to detail. Things we take for granted, such as a fence, are enhanced in an exceptionally defined form. Even the most minute element is greatly illuminated into a brilliant word-visual.
King takes us on a journey, not only through time, but through tragedy, with his extensive and exhausting research. He leaves no stone unturned in defining daily life during that time period, from architecture to town squares, from clothes to style, societal mores to social stigma, it is all masterfully depicted within the pages. Some of what we read is extremely insightful of the mood of the nation, before the assassination.
The Jake is a realized character, and this reader found him believable in his depiction, his aspiration and his sense of urgency. This is due to King’s sense of humaneness, and individual struggles of good over evil, for the sake of humanity.
King writes masterfully, and with clarity and cognizance. This is one novel that is not a horror-based one, but rather one that tackles an age-old question. King leaves us to ponder, to question, to envision what our world might look like, today, if we could actually go back in time and change the course of history. By changing the course of history, what would the present be like? Would it be better or worse? Would the positives outweigh the negatives, or vice versa? If you change one aspect, it affects the entire world. One event is just a small measurement or particle of the whole, the entirety of the planet.
I highly recommend 11/22/63, by Stephen King, to everyone!