This is the second Stephen King novel I’ve ever read. I’ve always have been too much of a wimp to willing pick up one of his horror books, but after reading Shaw Shank Redemption and now this, I need to read more by this man. He’s so freaking good. (Of course, I’m sure pretty much everyone else on this planet, already knows this.)
This book is for you if…
… You want to sit so far on the edge of your seat, you fall.
… You want to know the cost of changing the past.
… You want a broken heart, romance without the ooey gooey, and find beauty in existence.
This story follows Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money by helping adults earn their GED. One of these students, Harry Dunning, turns in an essay about the gruesome story about the night where his father killed his mother, brother, and sister, with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, resulting in a limp he’d still carry 50 years later. Of course like any normal human, Jake cries after reading this.
Not much later, Jake’s friend, Al, who runs the local diner, tells Jake a secret. As it turns out, his storeroom is a portal to 1958. Al has a plan to go through his rabbit hole into 1958 and wait to save JFK from his assassination. Only Al is too sick to do it himself, so instead, he tries to send Jake.
Jake decides to test and see if the the past can really be changed before agreeing to Al’s offer. He sets down the rabbit hole with the goal to save Harry’s family from their tragic fate. After witnessing the horror and stopping Mr. Dunning from murdering his family, he returns to 2011 to see how things have changed. After seeing the affects on the world, he agrees to go back down the rabbit hole to save JFK.
Taking on the identity of George Amberson, Jake spends his days studying Lee Oswald, making sure he’s the true killer of JFK, and teaching at a high school. During his new life, Jake also meets Sadie Dunhill, a beautiful school librarian who steals his heart and gives him hers in return.
Throughout this read, I honestly forgot Jake wasn’t a real person, that Sadie never existed, and there really isn’t some Rabbit hole that can lead you back in time. Every character was written with such real and raw emotions. Never once did I doubt this version of our world. It didn’t feel like fiction at all.
I think it helped that King did wonders with the setting. He showed that the 50s and 60s weren’t just full of poodle skirts, 10¢ rootbeer, and the catchy music. It was also filled with racism, sexism, homophobia. He shows the era for what it was, a dreamy horror land.
I have to say, I loved the fact king included a wonderful Easter egg. I’m told there’s more than this one, but as I haven’t most of Stephen Kings novels, I only picked up on the one.
The first town Jake winds up in is a town called Derry. Here, Jake meets a boy named Richie and a girl named Beverly. He learns the town has recently been plauged by a string of child murders from a man in a clown suit, and he suspects these kids know something about it. While in Derry, Jake walks by a sewer pipe, where he fells an evil sleeping, an voice telling him to come and play, and the creeping feeling the pipe leads to another rabbit hole.
This book is devastating and with each chapter, it escalates in suspense. 11/22/63 is unique, unlike any other time travel novel I’ve read before. It has the air of “what if we could fix everything” but shows that changing the past, comes with a steep price. Definitely worth the time it took to read.