by Stephen King
It is my habit to read in the evening with a small dog on my lap.
Bethy is very happy this book is finished, since it’s a weighty tome of 800-plus pages. Even the dog knows this book should have been shorter.
Jake Epping is the character here, a high school English teacher who for very good reasons, is shown a sort of “stairway” that leads into the past. To his credit, he thinks of the good he can do, and the lives he can change. And best of all, when he comes back to 2011, only a few minutes have passed. So he goes back to the year 1958 and alters the situation so that a young girl is not crippled, and he saves a family from being massacred.
Times have changed since ’58, and the author describes them pretty accurately.
People are not fearful of strangers, rootbeer is five or 10 cents depending on size, motels, were motorcourts, and everybody smoked.
In the past Jake assumes the name of George Amberson. He buys a 1954 Ford convertible for $315, and gasses it up for 19 cents a gallon.
You see, his real objective in “going back” is to get to Lee Harvey Oswald and make sure he doesn’t kill President Kennedy in 1963.
If you’ve read The Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury then you know about the Butterfly Effect, and you know that the past cannot really be changed . . . at least not without consequences.
George Amberson will spend a lot of time in the past. He has the money and the clothes and he only slips sometimes, by using a modern expression like (senior moment) or singing a song from the 2011 charts, but he makes friends and falls in love, he teaches school, and almost decides to stay in the past.
When he first came down the stairway into the past, the first person he met knew he didn’t belong there. This man is the readers first warning that changing the past will alter the future.
George has done his homework, with some help, and he knows everything about the presidential assassination. He begins to follow Oswald, lives near him, sees who his friends are and makes plans to stop the shooting. The idea of a conspiracy is ever on his mind.
When he needs more money for those plans he visits the bookie and bets outrageous odds on something he knows is a sure thing. Mobsters don’t like to be fleeced and they will find him.
This is a great yarn with lots of “wow” moments, but it would have been just as good , I think a bit shorter. Stephen King cannot resist characters, even “bits” must be given their due.
Our hero will make it to Dallas, split second timing and death are assured. It’s what’s happening back in 2011 that we really have to worry about. A great, though long, book.
Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.