Book Review: 11/22/63, a novel by Stephen King

My great frustration with reading this book is that I had a great deal of difficulty putting it down!

I had never read a Stephen King novel, but due to boredom, I ended up taking out from the library 11/22/63, an 800+ page tome. OK, it wasn’t JUST boredom, but also a near-obsession I have long had with the tragic events of that day, crystallized in my mind; my own long-running curiosity about the various conspiracy theories surrounding John F. Kennedy’s assassination; and what would happen if, somehow, the President had survived the attack. (I’m sure I’ll write more about that next year.)

When I checked out the book – allowed for only 14 days, instead of the usual 28, because it’s a recent purchase – the library clerk, who had read it, assured me that it wasn’t one of those King horror books.

Well, no,  and yes. This is a pretty straightforward narrative about a man and a portal to a very specific time and place in 1958. What I always disliked somewhat in some going-back-in-time stories is how very precisely timed the trips were. If one were trying to stop JFK from being killed (or make sure that he was, so that the “time-space continuum”, or whatever, wasn’t wrecked), one would show up in Dallas, Texas on November 19 or so.

What would happen, though, if you had to live in the past for five years before intersecting with history? Would that be a good thing? What would you do with your time? How would you survive financially? (Your 2011 credit card, or for that matter, your 21st-century cash, would not be useful.) Might you involve yourself in other wrongs that should be righted? And would you find the past more enticing than the present? The protagonist says, more than once, that the past is obdurate.

There were monsters, though, in this book, including assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, and a couple of other folks. But the protagonist finds some redeeming characters as well.

My great frustration with reading this book is that I had a great deal of difficulty putting it down! Sleep? Work? Housework? These were getting in my way of finishing this fine, incredibly well-researched book. King addresses his sense of the conspiracy theories, both in the story proper, and the Afterword. Even though this is a fictional account, you will learn much about the forces that led to JFK’s death.

I hope it’s obviously HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
***
Jaquandor’s take on the book.

New York Times review by Errol Morris.

Steve’s Stephen King memories