Book Review: 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King

Book Review: 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King

11-22-63-novel-stephen-king-book-reviewI’ve mentioned Stephen King several times on my blog and that’s because he’s my literary hero. But that’s a story for another day.

When readers hear the name Stephen King, I’m sure many think of his hits that were turned into movies. Those like Carrie, Pet Cemetery, or Cujo. If you’ve seen these movies or read the books, you know King has the ability to write gruesome stories, yet keep the story interesting enough that the horror doesn’t take away from the plot.

Still, many people don’t enjoy horror, including me. At least these days. I used to LOVE King’s horror stories, but I’ve grown out of them.

That’s why 11/22/63 surprised me. I know King’s books aren’t all horror, but this one was different for me. It was easy to tell King was the one who wrote it. It had his humor, his attention to character detail and intricacies, but the feel was different.

Book Description via Amazon

Dallas, 11/22/63: Three shots ring out.

President John F. Kennedy is dead.

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away . . . but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke. . . . Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten . . . and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

In Stephen King’s “most ambitious and accomplished” (NPR) novel, time travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.

Book Review

I wasn’t even alive when President Kennedy was assassinated, yet the idea behind this book was intriguing because of the stories my parents told. They couldn’t tell much, but they knew exactly where they were when they heard the president was killed. They knew the feeling, the horror, and the sadness. I couldn’t wait to hear what ideas King could create during this time period.

This read was well worth the wait. I had to wait until my father-in-law and a brother-in-law finished with their copy. I guess I didn’t have to, but seeing that $35 price tag on the hardcover gave me pause.

King sucks you in from the very first chapter. It helped that I had an idea of what the book was about, but it wouldn’t have mattered. You’re given tension, a great plot idea, and flawed characters right from the beginning.

The characters? Amazing as always. Each character has their quirks, their small details that make them real whether it is the way they say a specific word, the way they wear their hat, or the way they smell.

If you haven’t noticed yet, 11/22/63 is a HUGE book. The hardcover edition is listed at 849 pages. Not a big deal if you’re an epic fantasy fan such as myself, but if you’re not used to books this long, you may get bogged down.

Getting bogged down wasn’t possible for me throughout most of the story because the intensity and interest level were kept on over-drive. If there was one area where a reader may get bogged down it would be during a part when the main character just observes. It was interesting, but I personally could have used a little more action, or had it broken up a little more. I think that was around page 500 or so, and went on for around 50 pages.

However, if I was alive during that time period, or if I was a history buff, the details alone probably would have kept me interested. I also wonder if this was King’s idea of the calm before the storm. There wasn’t necessarily a calm, but once this part was over, I read the last few hundred pages in a day.

Other than that one portion, I have no complaints. It was one of my top three favorites by Stephen King, maybe even my favorite.

If you enjoy typical Stephen King, you should try it. The same goes if you’re into historical fiction, alternate histories, time travel stories, the Kennedy assassination, or just an awesome book.

I give 11/22/63 by Stephen King five of five stars. This book is well worth the read.

Grab a copy here on Amazon US, or here on Amazon UK. You can grab a copy here on Barnes and Noble.

Check out the Amazon reviews for 11/22/63 below.


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Book Review: 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King — 5 Comments

  1. Didn’t like it. Reeked of postmodern tripe. A writer’s desperate attempt to ensure his next invite to the big Democrat fundraiser. Not my style. Another one-percenter showing his stripes. I’ll keep rereading The Shining and save the political rally for causes I believe in.

  2. Kirkus,

    I, too, loved this book. I’m a huge King fan myself. I agree with what you say.

    Okay, I’m going to date myself here. I was alive when Kennedy was shot. I was 3. Not only that, but I lived in a small suburb of Ft. Worth, grew up in that area, and know the places he wrote about.

    I no longer live there, but you can imagine how evocative this book was for me.

    I would say that it’s one of his best!

    RG Calkins

    • Oh, wow. I can imagine what it would be like reading about an area I’d lived in. My mother-in-law said the music is what got to her. Makes sense since she was a music teacher, haha. But she said the music, all the descriptions, the food, the buildings, it all brought her back to that time. I wasn’t alive back then, but King put me there regardless. As with most writers, King has his moments of greatness and I think this book was one of them.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Howdy, Tom. :) Always great to hear from you. You definitely have to let me know what you think about this one. As I said in the review, I’m a not a huge King horror fan, but I’ve really enjoyed some of his other works. This one was one of the best in my opinion. And thanks for calling me a “young pup.” :) Moving over the last couple weeks certainly hasn’t made me feel like one, haha.

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