11/22/63, by Stephen King

So, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was not terribly excited for this book club pick. I’ve read and liked a few Stephen King books lately, but I’ve also been stuck halfway through The Stand since I got back from vacation at the beginning of August. I just can’t find time to read the other 500 pages when I could spend that time reading a whole book, you know? 11/22/63 is nearly as hefty, at 850 pages, and I was just not sure I could make it, especially since I started reading the book three days before book club.

However. It seems that King turned his “compulsively readable” dial up to eleven while writing this book, and so I found myself up into the wee hours of Sunday morning finishing it because I just had to know what happened! Excellent! Less excellent: the what that happened.

But let’s back up here. So the plot of the story, as you may already know, is that there’s a fella who gets himself recruited to go back in time and prevent the assassination of JFK. This I was leery of, as I know approximately squat about said assassination and I have a mostly-hate relationship with historical-type novels. But the lead-up to the time travelling is actually really well done, as the protagonist must be convinced to do it and so therefore I found myself convinced that this was totally a fantastic idea. Well, kind of a fantastic idea. The idea seems less fantastic the farther you go in the book.

Anyway, part of the convincing consists of proving that our fella, Jake, can change the past, and those chapters are probably the most compelling of the whole novel, because Jake actually cares about the people whose lives he is attempting to change and because it is interesting to see how the “obdurate” (this is a recurring word) past will try to trip him up.

Then the JFK part starts and it is unfortunately less exciting, largely because Jake has to hang out in the past for five years before he can actually, you know, stop the assassination. It’s interesting, because I now know slightly more than squat about JFK and Oswald and Dallas and all the events that wove these people together, and about the awesome conspiracy theories that exist, but it is also very long. There’s also a love story bit in here that is okay as far as unnecessary love stories go, but seriously, five years, yawwwn. Luckily King uses one of my favorite storytelling techniques, the “here’s what’s going to happen a few pages from now but hang on while I get us there” technique, to keep me turning those pages.

So I liked the story, overall, from beginning to whatever might happen when Jake finally meets up with Oswald, but then instead of, like, ending the story King goes off in a different direction entirely and (spoilers?) tries to explain how the time travel works and how it affects the future and it gets a bit post-apocalyptic but then manages to end on a really sappy note. I guess it was the right ending for the book as written, but I was over here expecting a different kind of book. Darn you, expectations!

Recommendation: For those who need an arm workout, or like history, or who are planning their own visit to November 1963?

Rating: 7/10