Stephen King likes to travel back in time, and the creamy, apple pie era he enjoys visiting most often is America between1955 and 1965. King himself came of age during those years, and his personal nostalgia transforms into potent prose in works like “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” “The Body”/ Stand by Me, Christine, The Green Mile, Hearts in Atlantis, and It.
In 11/22/63 King tackles a time traveling tale head on. Our hero, Jake Epping / George Amberson, finds a loophole that allows him to travel from 2011 to Sept 19, 1958.
Jake/George heeds Jethro Tulls’ advice, and goes ” living in the past,” embarking on a five year journey to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Along the way our hero falls in love, which, of course, nearly ruins everything, but ultimately saves the day.
Unlike some of King’s fantastic flights, this one is firmly rooted in fact, and his impressive research into the Kennedy Assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald gives this novel a muscular framework. King’s familiar narrative tone and comfy characters are his trademark, and fans of his folksy style (of which I am one) will have fun with 11/22/63.
As Todd Rundgren suggests, “The whole universe is a giant guitar.” But in 11/22/63, too many trips through the time-trippin’ wormhole creates too many strings, and everything gets thrown out of tune. Curse you, butterfly effect! Ashton Kutcher, too!
There are shades of Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time and Don DeLillo’s Libra here, as well as dozens of other time-traveling / alternate universe / historical fiction novels. King’s contribution to the genre is a fine one.
Kudos to the enhanced ebook for including a 13-minute King-narrated video about 11/22/63, audio clips read by King, an interview with the author, a readers group study kit, a playlist of songs mentioned in the book, and recipes for the artery-clogging Southern fried food served up in novel. Enhanced, indeed!