I was hoping to get this book done in October, because I had assumed it was going to be more of a horror, but a part of me is glad I didn’t get to it because it is more of a historical fantasy. I also had no idea how long it was until I got the book from the library, and realized it was over 800 pages, or 30 hours on audiobook….which is quite long.
Like most of King’s longer books I’ve read, or tried reading, I had mixed feelings about this book. However, for the most part, I found it interesting and well-worth reading.
Synopsis: Jake Epping is an average school teacher in Maine. He finds out one of his students, only now trying to get his GED, survived a massacre by his father 50 years ago, which killed his entire family. Meanwhile, his friend Al, an owner of a local diner, recruits Jake to stop the Kennedy assassination in 1963. By traveling through a magical portal in the diner’s back room, which takes a person back it 1959. Jake agrees, in hopes of changing the fate of multiple people. So begins a suspenseful tale of how one action can change the future forever.
There are many things to like about this book. There are some great scenes, and the ending was surprisingly perfect. I find King’s endings are usually a bit of a disappointment compared to the rest of the book, but this one broke that pattern. Saying that, the middle was extremely slow, and there were so many pointless side plots that could have been completely cut without detracting from the story in the least. Maybe the book could have been 500 pages, but 800+ pages was a bit much. The characters were mostly interesting, and I loved the idea that every action has a reaction, the theory of the butterfly effect. While it wasn’t a perfect book, if you like reading and can bear some of the boring parts in the middle, I would recommend this book.
I struggle finding things to talk about without giving away spoilers, because most of the things I liked/disliked were later in the book. The story starts out relatively slow, and it’s only with the introduction of the time traveling portal that we get a glimpse that this book is a fantasy (that is, if you went into the story blindly without a synopsis).
Many of the main characters we meet are interesting, but a lot of the background ones just blend together. The book takes forever to get to the actual assassination plotline, as Jake spends a few years stopping other tragedies from happening. I would have liked this early part to have been condensed more, but once it got to learning more about Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who shot Kennedy, I was fascinated by the historical side of this book. I really appreciated that King took the time to thoroughly research the history, though in his ending statement he mentioned he did play around with the timeline just a bit.
I am honestly struggling to think of anything else to say which isn’t a spoiler, so let’s just head over to the spoiler section.
There is a big reference in the early part of the book to Dairy, Maine, and It (you know, the book about the crazy clown/demon). The first section of Jake’s time traveling life takes place in that town, and he even meets Bev and others of the Loser’s Club. It’s a pretty blatant reference, and the main thing it tells us is that this takes place in the same universe as It. I understand from some friends of mine who have read a lot of Stephen King that most of his books are set in the same universe, but I didn’t think this book really needed to spend so much time on this reference.
The ending is the main thing I was impressed by. So, Jake successfully stops the assassination of Kennedy, even though the woman he’s fallen in love with, Sadie, is accidentally killed by Oswald. He has spent four years of his life in the past and finally travels forward, only to find the world is a much darker place. It is then he realizes his actions did not help, but made things worse.
One interesting thing about the portal is that every time you travel inside, everything is reset. So Jake steps back in time. He thinks of going to see Sadie, or doing all the things he did before, but in the end he decides the past is the past for a reason and his changing things might have horrible consequences. So he steps forward in time, back to the present, sealing the past in the past forever.
He does, however, find out that Sadie is now alive and an old woman. He goes to meet her, and they share an adorable moment. For once, I wasn’t disappointed by this ending a lot. It demonstrated how one little thing can change the world, and how maybe it is a good thing we can’t go back in time to change things.
I enjoyed this book. The middle was a bit tedious to get through, but the ending brought my liking of it a little higher.
Have you read this book or heard of it? Does it look interesting to you? Also, this is the last book by King I will read for a while. Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,