Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Title: 11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Science fiction
Publisher: Scribner
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
Pages: 842
First line: I’ve never been what you’d call a crying man.

Goodreads blurb: On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed forever.

If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be worth it?

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students — a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

Okay, now I get what all the fuss is about. Yes, I read – and enjoyed – On Writing, and I loved Uncle Stevie’s columns in Entertainment Weekly, but I had yet to try any of his fiction, because I am a chicken. I don’t like horror, and I associated King with horror. But then everyone kept saying that he writes more than just scary stories, and I was seeing rave reviews of 11/22/63 on multitudes of blogs, and I decided I had to find out for myself.

This man knows how to tell a story. 849 pages long, and I didn’t lose interest once. He draws together so many threads of story, so many characters, and does it so deftly – it’s like a tapestry made by a master craftsmen. This book has everything you could possibly want in a satisfying read: truly evil villains; authentic, well-rounded characters; a love story; a mission to save the world; impossible choices; mysterious, otherworldly figures; and an ending that keeps you guessing right up until the last few pages.

So, my question to all of you King fans out there: What should I read next? Keep in mind that I’m a chicken, so none of his most horrifying titles, please. But anything that isn’t horror, or leans more toward fantasy or science fiction, that you can recommend would be greatly appreciated.

This entry was posted in science fiction and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    Yes! I am so glad! This book is probably my favorite of all of his books, and I’ve read probably 75 – 85% of them. He is an amazing story-teller. If you don’t like horror (and some of his are serious horror), then I tell you to read The Stand. It IS scary, but is more of an epic story of good versus evil…so much more than a scare-fest. Under the Dome is a lot like The Stand, but without the Apocalyptic implications.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – I actually ordered Under the Dome before I wrote this post. I’ll have to see if the library has The Stand on audio, as I don’t have time for another chunkster right now.

  2. AnnieB says:

    I second “The Stand.” Amazing!

  3. Susan says:

    Dolores Claiborne? But it could be too creepy. Congrats on finishing 11/22/63 — sounds like his best. cheers.

  4. This one didn’t interest me initially, but the more I hear about it, the more I think I actually might like it. It sounds like so much more than my first impression. I am glad you enjoyed it, Carrie.

    I’m still working my way through King’s The Stand. Or, rather, I’ve stalled and am taking a break. Everyone keeps telling me I’m at the beginning of the best part–which is funny since I just told my husband I don’t like the direction the book has gone. LOL Anyway, I am enjoying the book to some degree. It’s just not holding my interest the way I wish it could. King is hit and miss with me. I really liked Misery, when I read it. But I didn’t like Cell. There are certain of his books I will never read and others I’d like to give a try.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – I have actually seen the movie Misery, but never read the book. Might have to give it a try!

  5. Robin
    Twitter: robnmccormack
    says:

    I’m the same way, I don’t like horror, but I do like Stephen King’s writing. I thoroughly enjoyed “Duma Key” and “Under the Dome.” Both are more psychological thrillers than horror with a bit of sci fi thrown in.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Robin – thanks – I just put Duma Key on audio on hold at the library!

  6. Ron Miles says:

    I’m gonna buck the trend, and recommend two other books for you:

    “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” is about a nine year old girl who gets lost on the Appalachian Trail when she is separated from her mother and brother during a day hike. She listens to a baseball game on her radio, and then begins to imagine that her favorite pitcher is actually there guiding and helping her, as she is pursued by something in the woods. Not a horror story, just a strong character story about a young girl in an impossible situation.

    “The Colorado Kid” is a straight up murder mystery, and is a delight to read. Again not horror, and nothing supernatural (the core of the mystery is a set of impossible to reconcile circumstances). Again it is an entirely character driven piece, and also very different than most of King’s other work.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Ron – those sound perfect! And the library has Colorado Kid on unabridged audio, so will get to that one soon, hopefully. The other one goes on the list for later in the fall when we’re settle back into our normal school routine. :) Thanks!

  7. bermudaonion(Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    This is the only book by King that I’ve read and I loved it too!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – its exciting to discover an author to be something more than you expected – now I have so much of his back list to look forward to!

  8. Sheila (Book Journey)
    Twitter: bookjourney
    says:

    I would like to read the Stand as well but have not yet.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sheila – I know some people are doing a Stand read-along this summer, but I didn’t have time to join. Maybe we should do one in the fall?

  9. Natalie ~ the Coffee and a Book Chick
    Twitter: coffeebookchick
    says:

    So glad you enjoyed this! 11/22/63 was one of my favorite books from last year and will always be one of my favorites. I just finished reading The Stand, which is scary initially, but then really is more of an epic story more than anything else. It’s one of King’s classics. I also liked ‘Salem’s Lot, which I thought was uber-scary, along with The Shining on audio, narrated by Campbell Scott which was INCREDIBLE. I highly recommend that.

    Feel free to link up to The Stephen King Project site that I and Kathleen (from Boarding In My Forties) are hosting! Here’s the July link ups page: http://thestephenkingproject.blogspot.com/2012/07/stephen-king-project-2012-july-reviews.html

    If you want, you can link the button up to your post, too, if you like! Hope you read more Uncle Stevie this year!!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Natalie – I just put several of his books on hold at the library, so chances are good. :)

  10. Kathleen says:

    I see Natalie already told you about The Stephen King Project. I hope you will be able to join. I still need to read this latest by King but can highly recommend The Stand if you like fantasy and are afraid of the horror fiction.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathleen – it seems like Stand is the one most often recommended!

  11. Beverly S. says:

    Thanks for the review of 11/22/63. I gave this book to my youngest daughter several months ago. Neither of us have read it yet but after reading your review think I will try and tackle it soon. My two favorite King books are The Stand and Salem’s Lot but The Tommyknockers has “stayed” in my mind for many years too. :) I’m anxious to read Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klasdman next. I lucked out and won a copy of it but may have to start 11/22/63 first. I’ll need to stay extra busy since this is the week my oldest officially “leaves” the nest (sniff sniff) plus we put my mom in hospice today.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Beverly – I’m so sorry – sounds like you’re going through a lot right now! I will keep you in my prayers. I haven’t heard of Tigers in Red Weather – will have to go look that one up!

  12. Mrs.B says:

    I’ve been on a Stephen King kick since finishing 11/22/63 which I loved. That was my first King novel. Since then I’ve read The Shining and The Dead Zone, neither one of which was even close to the brilliance of 11/22/63. However, I’m still not over King and I’m now reading Salem’s Lot.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Mrs. B – Glad to hear I’m not the only one who has waited to long to give King a try! Salem’s Lot is one that my husband remembers being traumatized by as a boy. :)

  13. Melissa
    Twitter: myeclecticbooks
    says:

    I’m not a fan of horror if it’s gory but I like scary. I started one of his books once…don’t remember now which one but found the writing to be pedantic. (Plus I then starting seeing him at Fenway reading-how do you read instead of watching the Sox?? Had to ban him for that! LOL. )

    I really need to give King another shot. Maybe now that I am older I’d think differently.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Melissa – well, I take books everywhere, and you have to admit that there is a lot of down time in a baseball game! lol You should definitely give him another try – I thought this was very well-written.

  14. Stephanie
    Twitter: qbibliophile
    says:

    I haven’t read Stephen King in a long time, but this sounds terrific! As far as recommendations, The Stand is my all-time favorite King novel.

  15. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – August 5, 2012 (also, July reading wrap-up) | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  16. Pingback: Favorite speculative fiction of 2012 | BOOKS AND MOVIES