If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be what you hoped?
Jake Epping, 35, teaches high-school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and cries reading the brain-damaged janitor’s story of childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father. On his deathbed, pal Al divulges a secret portal to 1958 in his diner back pantry, and enlists Jake to prevent the 11/22/1963 Dallas assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. Under the alias George Amberson, our hero joins the cigarette-hazed full-flavored world of Elvis rock’n’roll, Negro discrimination, and freeway gas-guzzlers without seat belts. Will Jake lurk in impoverished immigrant slums beside troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald, or share small-town friendliness with beautiful high school librarian Sadie Dunhill, the love of his life?
There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about 11/22/63. I thought that Jake was very likable, as was most of the other characters. I’m not an expert on King’s catalog (at least, before this and the Under the Dome readalong earlier this year I hadn’t read King in about 15 years), but it’s clear he is a consummate storyteller. I loved the world-building he did for the late 50s and early 60s—the music, the era-specific technology, and the culture were pretty well fleshed out. While perhaps the racism of the times was glossed over, that is forgivable since 11/22/63 isn’t supposed to be about race relations.
When you come down to it, 11/22/63 is a love story… with elements of alternate history and time travel. The love affair between Jake and Sadie is funny, sweet, and heartbreaking (although I thought the sex scenes were kind of awkward…). Jake also falls in love with small-town Jodie, Texas and its people, quickly becoming a favorite teacher and drama coach at the high school (some teacher clichés are in there, though).
The best way to experience 11/22/63 is to suspend your disbelief, and just go along for the ride. There are time travel rules that are a little weird, and I got major Biff (Back to the Future) vibe with Jake’s money-raising tactics. Also I think overall the book is kind of longer than it needs to be. Parts in the middle dragged a bit, and thinking about 11/22/63 after finishing I feel like this is almost two books squished into one.
I think I liked the JFK plot line the best. I was spellbound by Jake’s reconnaissance on Lee Harvey Oswald and his family, and the events leading up to that fateful November day in Dallas. And then, the ending flipped everything on it’s head and I was gripped once again. I do wish it had ended with the “Final Notes” chapter rather than the last one. Just felt more… authentic?? Is that weird to say about a sci-fi alternate history story? 😉 But I may say that and feel that way because I’m not a reader who needs all loose ends tied up for me—I don’t mind unresolved endings.
Anyway, thanks for joining me on the #112263Along if you did! And if you already read the book, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments. 🙂
Read from October 21 to December 21, 2013.