Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Monday, March 19, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

If I seem a bit tired, it's because I've been doing a bit of time travel as of late. First, I got stuck in a loop in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children which I reviewed over on our little sister blog BeTween Books. Then Mr. King sent me back in time to save President Kennedy. That's a lot of space-time continuum frequent flier miles. 

This book is huge: 800 some pages to be not-so-exact. There's a ton of research that went into the writing of this, but none of it gets in the way of the story. Books upon books upon books have been written, researched, fabricated, and debunked on the subject of Kennedy's assassination and all the possible conspiracy theories. This is not a book about the history of that day so much as a story of some key players in that moment. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself, because that doesn't even come until the second part of the book. Jake is a high school English teacher who also teaches some GED English classes. He becomes close to one particular student, a custodian at the high school, when an essay assignment reveals a family tragedy from Halloween of 1958. When Jake takes the custodian out for a celebratory dinner at a local diner, Jake's life gets more complicated.

 The diner owner, Al, has discovered that his storeroom contains a "rabbit hole"; a staircase to September 9, 1958. Al has been using the rabbit hole to gather information and create a plan to right what he considers the biggest wrong in the history of the US (post 1958 that is), which is Kennedy's assassination. What Al has learned during his trips back is that every time is a re-set - so whatever you do in a previous trip like saving a life is undone if you go back into the rabbit hole later - and though you may live in the rabbit hole for years, and you yourself will age for that amount of time spent in the past, you will only be gone from the present for two minutes. He was planning to save Kennedy himself but Al's health has other ideas. He is in the end stages of lung cancer and so he takes a chance and asks Jake to not only believe his story of time travel, but to take up his mission as well.

 What follows is Jake's story. The story of how he went down the rabbit hole and saved a girl from a stray bullet and a hunter from a lifetime of remorse. The story of how he stopped a man apart from destroying what he had a hand in creating. The story of how he traveled the US in a by-gone era, making friends and enemies along the way. The story of how he became a part of a community and fell in love. The story of how he stopped a man from shooting three times from a corner window in a book depository. The story of how the past does not want to be changed.  And the story of how he had to decide if it was worth it. In my opinion all 800 plus pages of this story are worth it.

Photo of John F. KennedyI'd love to get into a discussion about how I feel we often idolize those cut down in their primes; whether they were famous or not. And how what would have been their greatness is the easiest argument to make because time has made it impossible to prove you wrong. There were so many parallels between the political situation during the time frame of the book and what we are experiencing now. Many people, like Al, use that day as a demarcation line - a watershed - that will be used as the reference for "before" and "after." But the truth of the matter is, we do not know what would have happened if Camelot had not been ended early. Maybe President Kennedy would not have been able to avoid scandal, maybe he would have reconsidered his stands on equal rights, maybe he would have compromised or maybe he would have been everything everyone was hoping and more. But the discussion about Kennedy (or anyone else lost too early) would ultimately end the same way. We can never know what would have been due to what did happen. Unless, of course, we find a rabbit hole.  Even then....rabbit holes can be tricky.
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  1. Wow, not sure I want to try and change anything. I say don't mess with The Higher Plan. Humans changing the past is something I am not sure I want to happen. We are much to fallible. Great review.

  2. Thinking about this had me looking up "Ode to an Athlete Dying Young" and singing "Jack & Diane". I'm not sure this is where you wanted to go with the discussion. ;)