Monday, January 2, 2012


11/22/63 by Stephen King
Scribner, November 2011
Hardcover, 864 pages
ISBN-13: 9781451627282  
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.

My Thoughts:

In 11/22/63 by Stephen King Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, is recruited by his dying friend, Al Templeton, to travel through a time portal located in the storeroom of Al's diner. When he goes through the portal, it will be September 9,1958. Al wants Jake to complete a task he was unable to do: prevent Kennedy's assassination.

There are two known facts about the time portal, according to Al. First, when you return from the past, no matter how long you've been there, only two minutes have past in the present.  Second, each time you go back everything you've done before is erased so it's all back to how it was originally.

Jake decides to honor Al's request and change history. He travels back in time, calling himself George Amberson. Jake has motives of his own for going back in time. He'd like to prevent a horrific act of violence that occurred on October 31,1958, in Derry. Although it appears to be possible, obviously any effects from changing history are unknown. And it seems that the past pushes back - it doesn't want to be changed.

11/22/63 is not what many people would consider a typical Stephen King book. There aren't an abundance of supernatural events. Fans of Kings work are going to recognize many references to some of his previous books, especially those set in Derry. And, although 11/22/63 is a time travel novel, it's really much more than that. What about the Butterfly Effect? Can history be changed? What will altering a major event set into motion? Will love complicate Jake's mission and change events?

Clearly King has done his research. He masterfully set the time and place, which is clearly evident with all the little period details he includes throughout the story. All the details of Oswald's life are also interwoven into the story.  He combines all these real life details into the plot, which is populated with wonderfully developed fully realized characters. The narrative seems very plausible because the people and the setting seem so real. 

This is an excellent book by a highly skilled author. Had I finished it a few days earlier it would have certainly made my top list of 2011.  
11/22/63 is very highly recommended


I have never been what you'd call a crying man.
My ex-wife said that my "nonexistent emotional gradient" was the main reason she was leaving me.... opening

As for me, I only wish the former Christy Epping had been correct. I wish I had been emotionally blocked, after all. Because everything that followed - every terrible thing - flowed from those tears. pg. 5

If I'd known what the future held for me, I certainly would have gone up to see her.....But of course I didn't know. Life turns on a dime. pg. 14

“So,” he said. “You went and you came back. What do you think?”
“Al, I don’t know what to think. I’m rocked right down to my foundations. You found this by accident?”
“Totally. Less than a month after I got myself set up here. I must have still had Pine Street dust on the heels of my shoes. The first time, I actually fell down those stairs, like Alice into the rabbithole. I thought I’d gone insane.”
I could imagine. I’d had at least some preparation, poor though it had been. And really, was there any adequate way to prepare a person for a trip back in time?
“How long was I gone?”
“Two minutes. I told you, it’s always two minutes. No matter how long you stay.” He coughed, spat into a fresh wad of napkins, and folded them away in his pocket. “And when you go down the steps, it’s always 11:58 a.m. on the morning of September ninth, 1958. Every trip is the first trip. Where did you go?”
“The Kennebec Fruit. I had a root beer. It was fantastic.” 
“Yeah, things taste better there. Less preservatives, or something.”
“You know Frank Anicetti? I met him as a kid of seventeen.”
Somehow, in spite of everything, I expected Al to laugh, but he took it as a matter of course. “Sure. I’ve met Frank many times. But he only meets me once—back then, I mean. For Frank, every time is the first time. He comes in, right? From the Chevron. ‘Titus has got the truck up on the lift,’ he tells his dad. ‘Says it’ll be ready by five.’ I’ve heard that fifty times, at least. Not that I always go into the Fruit when I go back, but when I do, I hear it. Then the ladies come in to pick over the fruit. Mrs. Symonds and her friends. It’s like going to the same movie over and over and over again.”
“Every time is the first time.” I said it slowly, putting a space around each word. Trying to get them to make sense in my mind.
“And every person you meet is meeting you for the first time, no matter how many times you’ve met before.”
“I could go back and have the same conversation with Frank and his dad and they wouldn’t know.”
“Right again. Or you could change something—order a banana split instead of a root beer, say—and the rest of the conversation would go a different way. The only one who seems to suspect something’s off is the Yellow Card Man. pg. 44-45

"You can change history, Jake. Do you understand that? John Kennedy can live." pg. 59

"Also, I'm angry. I know life is hard, I think everyone knows that in their hearts, but why does it have to be cruel, as well? Why does it have to bite?" pg. 581


Jane said...

I just read this! I finished it last week. I'm not a horror book reader at all...& almost missed this book because of the author. *chuckles* I'm so glad I picked it up & read the inside cover. :) What a page turner! No horror, only science fiction. I got a little confused about the yellow card man (orange, black, green...), but it was ok. Getting confused on that didn't ruin it for me. The story was great.

Lori L said...

It was really good, wasn't it? Basically, the changing cards just signified that a change did happen with each trip.