Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner, 2011.
I would think that almost everyone over the age of ten, in 1963, remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. I clearly remember grabbing my two tiny children and running over to my neighbor’s house, tears running down my cheeks, in total shock, to see if they had heard the news. It seemed totally unbelievable. That was not something that happened in America. That only happened in far off lands. America was safe. America was pure. We were untouchable. (Obviously, at the moment I had forgotten the times we were told, as children, that if an atom bomb was dropped on us we were to get under our desks, if at school, or run to an inside room if we were at home. And we were naïve enough to somehow think that was going to help). Everyone I encountered for the next few days seemed somehow dazed by the news and all that followed as we learned the details of that fateful day. We soon discovered that it was not a singular event. With the subsequent shooting of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, to me it seemed as though America had lost its innocence.
What if there was a way that someone could somehow go back in time and make sure that horrible tragedy never happened? And that, my friends, is exactly what Stephen King proposes in his newest novel. I hadn’t read another of Mr. King’s fifty books since 1981, when I read “Cujo,” but only when my husband was home to protect me from the “bad stuff.” Most of King’s books I had read had lots of “bad stuff” in them and, at that point, I decided to protect myself from books that screamed “Boo!” at me, when I was already hiding in the closet. On hearing the premise of his newest book I decided to give him another chance and, boy, am I glad I did. It is a big fat book at 849 pages, but I enjoyed every one of them and managed to knock it off in a couple of days. There was not a whole lot of talking going on in the house during that period. “Don’t disturb me. I’m reading.” And, I am happy to report, I was not hiding in the closet. This is not one of his scary stories; just a suspenseful one.
Jack Epping, a 35 year old high school English teacher is approached by his friend Al and asked to come to the back room of his diner to see something he wants to show him. Jack is astonished to find that this something Al wants him to look at is what he calls a “wormhole” back into time; 1958 to be exact. He has been using the “wormhole” to go back and forth in time for some years now, to his advantage. He has been able to make quite a bit of money by betting on sporting events of which he already knows the outcome. He can see what has happened to the world after the Kennedy assassination. He is convinced that much of the blood shed and loss of young lives in foreign lands would not have occurred had Kennedy continued to be president. Although Al is willing to go through the “wormhole” and try to stop this historic event from occurring, he is unable to do so as he is near death himself. So he asks Jack to undertake the task.
Of course, there are other wrongs that could be righted that Jack quickly becomes aware of: a young woman left crippled as a result of a freak hunting accident and another young boy, now a man, orphaned as a child when his father murdered his mother and his siblings. Although he can go back to 1958 and stay as long as he needs to, only two minutes will have passed in 2011 time when he returns. But one of the biggest hitches to the whole plan is that he can not go back and forth between the two time periods, as each time he returns to 1958, time resets itself and he will have to start all over again to right any wrongs he might have corrected the last time he was there. Al has done huge amounts of research into what led up to Kennedy’s killing by Lee Harvey Oswald and has written it all down in a notebook for Jack. He has also accumulated a fair amount of 1958 money for him to live on while he is there. He finally convinces a very reluctant Jack to attempt to change history.
And there begins the tale. It is a story of love, danger, suspense, fear, and physical peril. And after it is over you will want to know if all Jack went through was worth it. Stephen King carries the story to the very end and tells you the results of this fascinating adventure. And still there is more. Any good story leaves one wondering…and then what happened?
Diane Bostick has lived on Marco Island since 1987. She was the Founder and President of Ft. Myers chapter of the Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, President of Jr. Welfare League, Ft. Myers Chapter, and served on the board of Art League of Marco Island. She is an avid reader, fly fisherwoman, tennis player and crafter.