Thursday, February 2, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas.  President Kennedy died and the world changed.  What if you could change it back? In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life—like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963—turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.

Dave and I read this book together back in December and I've been avoiding reviewing because it seemed like such a daunting chore.  As huge as the book is, in concept, in scope, and in detail (not to mention physical size) it seemed that I should have opinions to write that are equally huge.  And I probably do, if you have an afternoon to sit over a cup of coffee and chat, but trying to put it all into a few concise paragraphs is beyond me.  

Stephen King's writing, as always, is perfection. The research is impeccable.  The characters are engaging, the plot takes endless twist, and the ending is a surprise, yet just what you would expect from King.  If you are a fan of JFK history, or just mid-century history, as I am, you'll fall right into the setting and want to stay.  If you have no idea of anything that happened between 1958 and 1964, you'll probably still fall in and want to stay.  I came away knowing more than when I started, and wanting to know even more.

Dave and I are both fans of time-travel stories, and read-together books that involve so many "what if's" are the most fun - so we both . . . what?  "Enjoyed" seems too small, "loved" sounds so overused, . . . Well, just read it!


  1. The more I hear about this book, the more excited I am about it!

  2. I love love loved this one. He only gets better as he ages IMO.

  3. Nice review Tami. The book sounds great! I've put it on my book shopping list.

  4. I have this but can't start it till April!

  5. This book starts out okay. It kept my interest although it could get a little long-winded, and was pretty predictable. About 1/2 way through it seems to become a history lesson on the movements of Oswald. In great detail every move he made for months is outlined. And I couldn't really tell that any of it had to do with the storyline. I finally had to just quit reading it. If I'd wanted a history book on the assassination of JFK I would have bought one. It seems that King needs a new editor. One that will stand up to him and cut about 1/2 of his writing out of story.