Book Review – 11/22/63 – Stephen King
- Book: 11/22/63
- Author: Stephen King
- Genre: Thriller
- Year of Release: 2011
- Read 1089-page paperback edition in May 2016.
This thriller by Stephen King centres on school teacher Jake Epping, who is given an opportunity to go back in time to stop the assassination of JFK. Jake encounters a time portal thanks to his ailing friend Al, who runs a diner and has found this conduit to 1958 in the back stock room. Jake decides there are a couple things he can do to make the world better by going back to this time period, and living in the 1958-1963 period, leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy. However, he quickly learns that changing the timeline, and the outcomes of changes, are not as easy as one might think.
This was a fantastic novel by the horror and thriller novelist Stephen King. While there are some graphically violent and frightening scenes in this novel, it is certainly more tame than some of his more intense fare, and therefore may be more accessible to a wider audience. That being said, it is also a page turner, with the 1000+ pages of the paperback flying by in a heartbeat, as the reader is desperate to find out what happens to Jake and his close friends next.
The story is well thought out and well plotted. The first section of the book has Jake (who uses the alias George Amberson for most of the book) going back in time, not to save JFK, but instead to rescue a friend, school janitor Harry, and Harry’s family, from a grisly fate at the hands of his father-in-law back in 1958.
The second section of the book has Jake going back in time again, this time to save Harry again, but then afterwards to stay in the 1958-1963 time period to try and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK. He also needs to confirm Oswald is the only one behind the assassination, to be sure he will stop the killing the day of the assassination.
Both of these sections in the novel do a wonderful job of showing us Jake’s life in the 1950s-1960s. King does a fabulous job illustrating how life was back in this day, and his commitment to researching American life in this era is clear. He doesn’t just showcase the relaxing life of rural America though, he also shows us the grim realities of the time period, like racism and segregation for example. These illustrations add value and context to the novel.
Overriding the narrative is a mysterious “Yellow Card Man” who seems to have knowledge of the time traveling Jake, and is trying to make it clear he is not happy with Jake’s intrusion into the past. This adds an ominous science-fiction feel to the novel, and builds further suspense.
Jake’s time in the south as he prepares for 1963 is enjoyable to read, particularly his growing relationship with Sadie and growing friendships in Texas. King writes with strength and adds scenes of romance, drama, and suspense to add to the main JFK assassination plot. The result is a powerful, intriguing, exciting novel, which truly is a page-turner.
Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars