I like to read Stephen King books when I want to get immersed into something, and I usually enjoy them. I didn't dislike this book, and I liked it better than others I've read (The Dark Half, Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, etc.). Still, there were two things about this novel that I had issues with that took me out of the 'immersion' that I like about reading his books. First and foremost, it felt like the novel should have taken place in a different decade. This came up many times, in moments where I would raise an eyebrow and think to myself, "This is supposed to be happening in the 90's?" Only by remembering the reference to Twin Peaks did I not have to go back and check. It reminded me of Salem's Lot in the way that the novel follows the threads of a wide swath of the townspeople in Castle Rock and then weaves them together throughout the story. That device worked very well in Salem's Lot, and really provided a clear picture of the town that King had constructed for the novel to take place in.
The problem with the device in Needful Things, in my opinion, is that the townspeople in Castle Rock talk and act like people from the same time period, or even earlier, than those in Jerusalem's Lot. For a novel set in the 90's, it seems odd that the huge controversies in town involve casino night at the Catholic church and whether someone was uncouth enough to bring a cake to the new shop owner. I have never been to a small town in Maine, but I grew up in the 80's/90's in a small town in Minnesota not far from Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegon. Maybe there were some in my town at that time who were still pining for Elvis, wore hair curlers under kerchiefs, and could get terribly wrought up over what the other churches in town were doing, but there couldn't have been very many. It's not that I have a problem with the characters, I just don't think they belonged in the 90's. Or at least, to be believable, there should have been characters whose concerns were more modern so it didn't seem like the whole town was stuck in the 60's. Ace Merrill comes closest since he had evolved from a hood in The Body to a cocaine dealer by the time of this novel, but he was still kind of depicted as a fifties-style greaser even if his hair was graying.
The second problem I encountered, and to be fair I recognize that this is a personal thing, was that people's beloved pets got murdered so many times in the book that I found myself wanting to skip forward so I didn't have to hear it in excruciating detail. In a work of fiction, violence against an animal can be very powerful and very symbolic, so normally I grit my teeth and get through it. I think it just happened too many times in this novel, to the point where I started thinking to myself that I would never let my pets anywhere near Stephen King. Yes, it showed how out of control the townspeople were getting. But it was still a little much to deal with after the fourth time it happened.
critical book reader
A wonderfully told eternal story of temptations, desires, and a price we are willing to pay!
I love this book and have read it many times.
I love how King peppers in little mentions of other people's "needful things". Hugh Priest's foxtail is actually moldy and bare in places. Myra's sunglasses are actually held together with tape. The foreshadowing is subtle and you almost miss it.
I would only select a narration by Stephen King if it were the only unabridged version, or the only version at all of a book I'd like to listen to.
and do nasty things to each other. The author states this is a black comedy about greed and obsession. It’s not a genre for me. Instead of laughing at people, I was going ugh and oh - too much anger and stupidity.
Gaunt a demon (or devil) comes to town. He meets with many people. He knows each person’s weakness and greatest desire. He has a hypnotizing effect, fulfilling each person’s desire and compelling them to do a task. This task is something mean to another person and keeping it secret.
CAUTION SPOILER an example:
Gaunt tells Brian to throw rocks to break windows, the tv, and other items in Wilma’s home. The rocks have notes saying Nettie did it. Gaunt tells Hugh to kill Nettie’s dog with a note saying Wilma did it. Instead of talking to each other, Wilma and Nettie are enraged. They grab knives and kill each other simultaneously.
Actually the above kill scene was funny. I laughed, but I didn’t laugh at other kill scenes.
So, most of the story is getting to know people and watching them enjoy and obsess about whatever Gaunt gives them. They take extreme measures to protect it because they fear losing it. They do a task which is usually destroying A’s property and leaving a note saying B did it. Then A and B attack each other in a rage. Throughout this, the framed people don’t talk to each other or report damage to the police. No one acts in a rational manner.
A couple of characters eventually do some smart things at the end. It is sort of a happy ending. But so many people were foolish, vicious and dead, that it didn’t feel good. And, the ending was weak. It was the hand of God (or other power) coming in to fix things. Where was this power earlier in the story? Why does it appear only at the end? I can accept it - just mentioning - it was weak.
WHAT I LIKED:
I loved getting to know so many characters living in a small town. The author is great with descriptions and dialogue.
One unexpected reaction I had was feeling grateful that I didn’t have some of the problems these people had. One woman had such severe arthritis in her hands, she couldn’t zip a zipper, and she was in pain most of the time. What an awful way to live. Also a teen who stuttered who wished he didn’t. Stephen does this exceedingly well. I’ve read about similar problems in other authors’ books and didn’t feel as much empathy as I felt here.
Stephen King narrated this book, and his acting was very good. His accent probably fits the characters in the story. But I’d prefer an actor with a “generic accent.” Stephen says Mondeeey, Tuesdeeey, and a few other things that I’m not used to. I kept thinking this is Stephen the author. I’d prefer not thinking about “who” is narrating and just be immersed in the story.
Genre: paranormal suspense.
Ending: somewhat bad for the bad guy, barely good for a few good guys.
I really enjoyed hearing Stephen King tell me a story. He's a master at his craft and it was wonderful to hear him tell it. Just enough authentic Maine in his voice to do the story right.
This is a great example of what Stephen King does best: he examines the effect of unusual events on groups of people and watches them descend to their basest or noblest levels.
Paranoid covetousness is a phrase used in the novel, and it perfectly encapsulates the book. What happens when people are free to buy what their hearts desire most? Many, if not all of them, descend to levels of greed and nastiness which are perfectly described.
The novel only takes place over a short period of time, but it has the usual cast of characters, and the interplay between and among the residents of small-town Maine growing progressively more disturbed is riveting.
I for one like the narration by Stephen King. As the author, he doesn't mispronounce words or put emphasis in the wrong places. He has kind of an interesting New England accent, but it fits perfectly. Although he's not a professional reader, he does a very creditable job with women's voices, children's voices, and a host of men's voices.
One of Stephen King's great strengths as an author is his character depiction and development, and Needful Things is another solid example. While it may not be his most epic work, it's a good and satisfying read and listen, and well worth the credit.
I've read this book many times, it's one of my favorites by this author, and the audiobook did not disappoint. Often audiobooks read by their author can be a flat affair, but King does this one justice. It's obvious this is a book he enjoyed writing as he enjoys reading it to us as well.
Stephen king should stick to writing not telling the story. Not as good as some of his books but no author writes perfect for everyone. his worst is still better than most peoples best.
The way Stephen King writes is very detailed. Having to really listen to pick up little clues is very fun! Also I really did enjoy the music I was surprised! I felt it added suspense. Every time the door bell over the door of Needful Things dinged I got excited for what was going to happen.
I love Stephen Kings accent! It really adds to the story.
That would have to be the shop owner of Needful Things. He was a real con man and that's all I will say! I don't want to ruin it for anyone! Just give it a listen and find out.
Definitely worth the little bit extra. One of my top audible purchases.
My son disagrees heartily but I love Stephen King narrating his books. I am very picky about voices and honestly that type of voice would normally drive me nuts but I love it! As always the characters are developed and the nuances of daily life take on the building horror and dread. I read this book years ago. I have recently started listening to all the Stephen King books I can get in my ears. I am always amazed about what I forgot.