Epic books don’t scare me. I like a truly good book with hundreds and hundreds of pages, because nothing makes me sadder than when an engrossing novel ends too sonn. Mind you, if a book is wordy to a fault – The Goldfinch comes to mind – it ruins the appeal of the big book. However, in Stephen King’s 11-22-63, the words flow but in a way that makes sense. All words belong and few, if any, are wasted.
(For disclosure sake you should know that I’m using affiliate links in this post. For full disclosure please see this blog’s sidebar. Moving on, then…)
Until I read 11-22-63, The Stand was my favorite Stephen King book of all time. Actually, it’s one of my favorite books of all time. Even though it was over a thousand pages long, I was sorry to see it end. I feel the same way about 11-22-63, possibly my new favorite book of all time.
The funny thing is, I downloaded this book several years ago to read on my Kindle – and never did. I go through phases with Stephen King. I have these reading binges where I devour any of his books I can get my hands on until I burn myself out, and we have to part company for a while. In that regard, Stephen King the author is like the boyfriend I can’t stay away from but know I won’t marry. When I downloaded 11-22-63 in 2011, King and I were on a break. We got back together recently after I began searching my Kindle for a long book to keep me busy on a three hour flight. I’m to tell you we’re picking up where we left off nicely, thank you very much.
In my not so professional opinion, 11-22-63 is the best Stephen King book to date. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who didn’t read it – or see the series on Hulu. So I’ll try to be vague enough not to give anything away, with enough information to entice you to read. And do read the book before you try the series, because there’s so much you’ll miss if you don’t.
11-22-63: The Books & Chardonnay Pairing
In 11-22-63, Jake Epping learns the storage room of a local hamburger joint is actually a portal to the past, 1958 to be exact. In fact, everyone time someone uses that portal it resets back to the same day in 1958 – and here’s the kicker – no matter how long you stay away, you always return to the future two minutes after the time you originally left.
As a favor to his friend Al (who owns the hamburger joint and discovered the portal), and to right a wrong that happened to a high school janitor long before Jake was born, Jake agrees to take on the task of traveling back to 1958, and biding his time in the past until November 22, 1963, in which he will prevent the Kennedy Assassination from taking place. Maybe this will even stop a nasty chain of events from occurring in the future (namely the Vietnam War). But, you know, this is a Stephen King book and things are never that cut and dry.
You see, the past doesn’t want to change and will do all it can to prevent major changes from happening. This means Jake – using his 1958 name of George Amberson – faces many challenging and unexpected situations, sent to him by the past so he doesn’t change history. I know. It’s a lot to take in.
King did his research. His knowledge of past events, and most especially of the life and times of Lee Harvey Oswald, is thorough. I found myself looking up events and dialogue and finding that many seemingly unimportant details did take place – and they were important for Jake’s purpose.
Though Jake doesn’t travel back in time with the intention of bringing attention to himself, he’s not incognito. He lands a good job, meets the love of his love, and gets roughed up by some unsavory types. He’s not laying low.
11-22-63 isn’t a typical Stephen King novel. Though there’s a brief mention of a certain killer clown, this isn’t a horror novel. It’s not spooky or scary with rabid beasts or devils harvesting souls in a small town. The idea of time travel is presented in an intelligent, believable way. Well. As believable as this sort of thing can be presented, I imagine.
I won’t tell you if Jake/George succeeded in his mission, or if preventing the Kennedy assassination led to a completely different chain of events. That’s for you to find out for yourself.
Something else I found interesting is how 11-22-63 is several genres in one. Very few authors can pull off a mix of niches in a successful fashion, yet here we have a thriller, romance, SciFi, and historic fiction all in one. And it works.
It works very well.
I’m not a book reviewer, I’m not cerebral enough to analyze or discuss symbolism. I’m merely a person who loves to read and share good books with others. That’s why I do pairings instead of reviews. Despite that, I can tell you this: 11-22-63 was one of the best, most intense books I read in a long time. In fact, it’s been years since I finished a book and wanted to immediately reread it. I’m saving it for a few months though. It’s going to take me through vacation.
Pair with: No wine this time. You need your wits about you for this one. Pair with coffee. Black. The next few nights are going to be long ones.