Over the summer I read 11/22/63 – my first novel by Stephen King. I’ve seen some Stephen King movies (as a little kid I saw IT at my friend’s house across the street and it scarred me for life. To say that I’m terrified of the recent clowns chasing people all over the country and now in my own town is an understatement). If you’ve never read a Stephen King book but have seen some of the movies, there is a feeling that translates between the two. The best way I can describe it is by comparing it to Green Mile. It’s not scary, but it has this eery feeling pervading it. Like that feeling you get when you feel like someone is watching you.
Now that I’ve tried to explain the feeling of the book, let me get to the plot. Jake Epping is an English teacher in present day Maine. He is friends with a local proprietor – an older man who owns a diner/burger joint in town. One day he goes to get his dinner and finds that Al, the owner of the diner, seems sickly and has aged greatly seemingly overnight. Completely confused by what is going on, he learns that Al has been traveling back and forth through time. When you are in the past you continue to age as normal but when you come back only a few minutes have passed from the time you left. Now dying, Al asks Jake to fulfill his goal back in the past. What would the goal be? Well that’s where the title of the novel comes into play. 11/22/63 – the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The goal is to stop the assassination.
The novel was really interesting and time travel stories always interest me. There’s the obvious idea that when you travel back in time – I say this like I’ve done it before – you want to effect the least amount of people as possible because even the slightest change can change everything in the future. This is an interesting thing because as noble and great it would be to stop the assassination – would it end up having a negative impact on our future? It’s important to mention that when Jake travels back in time it is a few years before the assassination so naturally Jake begins to make friends and a life for himself. This will impact his decisions as well and shape him as a person for the future/past (?).
There were two quotes I took note of from the novel that I want to share with you.
“Oh, I told myself lots of things, and they all boiled down to the same two things: that it was perfectly safe, and that it was perfectly reasonable to want more money even though I currently had enough to live on. Dumb. But stupidity is one of the two things we see more clearly in retrospect. The other is missed chances.”
How true is that?
“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why. Not until the future eats the present, anyway. We know when it’s too late.”
I think that’s true too.
I really enjoyed the book and my best friend and I (in our 2 person book club) kept wondering how it was all going to turn out. The novel wasn’t scary or anything like that, but like I said above has an eery feeling to it. It’s like the world (of the past) knew Jake didn’t belong there so little creepy things would happen like people looking at him like they knew or people would make seemingly innocent comments that reminded him of something he had heard from the town drunk (who may or may not know exactly who he is and where he’s from).
The story has been turned into a miniseries on Hulu starring James Franco, but I haven’t watched it yet. I like James Franco, but I’m not sure I see him as Jake. Jake was always described as this really tall guy who I always imagined as a strapping early 30s guy. Not exactly how I picture Franco, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised when I watch it.
Have you read 11/22/63? Let me know if you have any other Stephen King recommendations. Not scary, please!