In honor of the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy I thought I would re-post an amended version of my review from earlier this year. Yes, I realize that Stephen King doesn’t need my review to help his sales, but every once in awhile you read a book that captures your imagination so much that you want to tell everyone to read it. 11/22/63 is one of those books.
When it first came out in November of 2011 I had no interest in reading the book. I hated the title and the cover art. That’s usually enough to steer me away from any book. I am a Stephen King fan though, so about 6 months ago when I hit a dry spell in finding a book to read I gave 11/22/63 another look. Two things helped to convince me to give it a chance. The new book price had come down after it had been out over a year and I read the synopsis and discovered that it was a time travel story. Anyone with an imagination has thought about time travel. Most of us have wondered about the great what ifs both large and small, whether it be correcting mistakes in our own life or changing the world for the better.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give out any spoilers here. In 11/22/63 school teacher Jake Epping is a likable fellow but a little lonely since his divorce. When his elderly, ailing friend reveals that he has discovered a “rabbit hole” in the back room of his diner that takes a person back in time Jake is of course skeptical, until he tries it.
Once Jake is convinced, his friend throws out the really big bait. What if Jake could travel back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination? Would the Vietnam war be avoided thus saving thousands and thousand of young men’s lives? What other positive changes to history might occur if John F. Kennedy hadn’t died?
The book is historically accurate and painstaking in many of the details. Stephen King builds a fascinating tale around that framework, adding flesh to the skeleton of information we all know about the event.
Of course if everything went according to plan Mr. King wouldn’t have much of a novel here, and that’s where this story gets really fun. What if, when you travel back in time, every little thing you do has a ripple effect that leads to unintended changes that you can’t possibly foresee? What if your interactions with people changed the course of their lives? How would your future be different when you got back?
In the end 11/22/63 turns out to be a surprising love story with a surprising ending that Stephen King credits to his son Joe Hill, who is a successful horror/suspense writer in his own right. As with any Stephen King novel, going in you have to know you’re making a significant time investment, but for this ending 11/22/63 is worth it.
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