On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back?
In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King - who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer - takes listeners on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a 35-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away: a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life - like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963 - turning on a dime.
Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession - to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world - of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading, eventually of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful - and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.
©2011 Stephen King. All Rights Reserved. (P)2011 Simon & Schuster, Inc
I was born in a cold, gray mining town in northern Minnesota, and a lot has happened since....
Stephen King On Writing is one of my favorite books, and I read it every couple of years. Half memoir, half writing “how to,” it is absorbing and delightful. I recommend it to my students and suggest that they read it every year.
However, that is the only one of King’s books that I’ve been able to read. I’ve tried many times, but kept getting bogged down after 20 or 30 pages. The stories were okay, but couldn’t hold my interest because the writing seemed too heavy handed, brutish, like he was typing with his fists.
So, after days of consideration, it was with great reluctance that I downloaded 11/22/63. The reviews were good, glowing, in fact, and I’ve learned to trust the opinions of Audible listeners. Plus, the book is more than 30 hours long, which the bargain hunter in me always finds attractive.
I just finished it tonight. It is a wonderful and fascinating story, based loosely on an English teacher’s obsession with Lee Harvey Oswald and the possibility of going back in time to prevent the Kennedy killing. I also enjoyed the love story, which the author handles with charm, humor and honesty.
The writing is wonderful, masterful, vivid, compelling. The characters are rich and deep, genuine, involved, and I find myself thinking about them and their lives often throughout the day. Life in small-town and big-town 1958 up to 1963 is mesmerizing, much as I remember it, with the constant but subtle hint of mysterious dangers to come.
You’ll get no more details from me, only a hearty endorsement. Well worth every minute, made doubly valuable by the excellent and interesting reading by Craig Wasson. Totally believable, wonderfully surprising, and, well, I was going to say something about the ending, but you'll want to find that out for yourself.
This is a great book with a fantastic narrator. A compelling story that keeps you mesmerized from the first word and won't let you go. I love time travel and I love history. While I am not always a Stephen King fan, he is a great author and knows how to tell a story. And he really tells this one very very well ... and Craig Wasson, the narrator, is as good as they get.
Time travel is not King's usual genre, but he has the skill to do a brilliant job in a form that is extremely demanding. Not only is the form demanding, but readers are demanding: science fiction aficionados are knowledgeable readers. We are a nit-picky audience. To my delight, I was thrilled with this book. King did his homework, both in the history and for the genre.
If you are a fan of time travel fiction where the history is the focus and not the technology (a la Connie Willis), you will love this, If you are looking for a more typical Stephen King horror story, well, you do get a taste of Derry, Maine and there is a creep factor, but this is much more science fiction/ time travel/ history than classic King. If you're looking for horror, this isn't it.
Above all, this is a brilliantly well written, carefully crafted, and well researched novel with excellent narration. Top grades all around.
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
Let me start with a quick public service announcement; if you have not read Stephen King's "IT", you may want to hold off on this book until you read that story. The first third of this book does deal with the town of Derry, and the history of evil within the town. Readers who have not yet read "IT" will still enjoy this book, and knowing the back story to Derry is not a prerequisite for following or enjoying this book; that said, readers that HAVE read "IT", (and, to a lesser extent, any of King's other books dealing with Derry), will have an enhanced enjoyment of these sections, along with the parallels drawn between Derry and other locations later in the story.
As others have previously shared, this is not a horror novel. While the overall "big picture" of the plot hinges on a man's "Great Adventure", the vast majority of the telling is focused in on the individual trees, rather than the forest (if you will). Most of the text is a day to day recounting of a man's life, and the pacing is slow. Not bad slow - but slow, nonetheless. The book is broken into 4 files for download, and the slow pacing is especially true of the 2nd, 3rd, and the first half of the 4th file. The beginning is faster paced, as is the conclusion of the story. It's a subtle story of a man's intentions, and as a story of that, it is genuinely beautiful.
There was a distinct danger of this book turning into a version of "Groundhog Day", and King dodges the possible pitfall artfully.
The Narration, as performed by Craig Wasson, is a revelation. As shared in a previous review, he IS the character of Jake, sharing his story with you; with all the happiness, sorrow, humor, and doubt that comes with life. He did a spectacular job. There were a handful of places where it appeared another narrator had "pinch hit" on a phrase or sentence; I'm not sure what that was about, but they did a good job getting a very similar voice and it didn't happen often.
To my recollection, I've never teared up while listening to an audiobook before; but this book brought me to tears 5 times; sometimes out of heart-wrenching tragedy, sometimes out of awe of the beauty and kindness of people.
All in all, this is a book about kindness, and good intentions. From the first page to the stunning conclusion, it gave me a reminder of how truly good people can be, and for that, I want to thank Mr. King.
I hope you enjoy it nearly as much as I did.
Let me preface this by saying I am not one who seeks out Stephen King books, nor am I one who reads or listens to much fiction, but this is the best audio adaptation I have heard in years from any genre. This novel expands on what I like about King's short stories and ties a modern vantage point to the late 50's early 60's experience. Craig Wasson is perfect for the narration as I never felt I was being "read" to. Listening to him reminded me that there is an art to both the writing and the telling of stories and this story drew me in quickly and kept me enthralled.
I love books! They have always added so much to my world. Between being a busy mom, having a demanding career, and keeping my household running smoothly, I have zero free time to just sit and read a book. Audible allows me to keep up with my reading (or "reading") while I'm working or driving or cooking or cleaning the house. I enjoy that so much - I love Audible!
The protagonist, Jake, is wonderfully real, good hearted, and relatable. The world of 1958 & forward is so brilliantly detailed! I can't wait to re-read so that I can be there all over again! (Oh, except for maybe the Derry part which is SCARY!!) ;-)
I love the character of Jake because the reader gets to experience this amazing world along with him. He feels like an old friend by the time his (and the reader's) journey is over. I also loved the characters of Sadie, Al, and Deke.
He does great voices for the marginal characters, but his portrayal of Jake helps a lot to make that character even more human and relateable.
This story evoked both a lot of laughter and a lot of tears from me. I haven't loved a new book this much in a long long time!
This book is fascinating, beautiful, and heartbreaking. It's a masterpiece!
It's simple really, I am just a guy looking to enjoy the writing and reading talents of others while raising my family the best I can, just Like most everyone else!!!
This book makes me wish I gave 5 stars less often, so my rating would truely show the beauty that has been created here! Where do I start? I will go with the reader. Craig Wasson reminds me of, previously thought unmatched, Frank Muller! I say this with great surprise as Mullers work is simply beautiful art that I have never heard matched. He had a way of bringing me along on each journey and making each word believable and each character real. To me Mr. Wasson is doing what only Muller has done for me in an audiobook. I feel the pain and the choices, heck, I found mysel emotionally tied to this new book after 20 minutes. I just don't ever do that. Anyway, I think you get the point. On to the Story: I will not spoil this wonderful/beautiful book here but will just say this book, in my opinion, would be loved by most any person that reads books for the characters in a story. The realism, the plot, the emotion and the fun of this book is, well, I wont say because I really don't want to become even more repetitive than I already have so you can take any of the above descriptions and add it here. If you love King, heck if you don't even like him I would still believe that this book has a really good chance of becoming a favorite of yours. I will say one thing that I do not like about King and that is the bad language. I do not curse and haven't in many years so I cringe every time but it is life it seems and compared to many others it still comes out mild in comparison.
I wish you good reading, as I think most will love this one
Retired former magazine editor who is working harder than ever as Mr. Dad to his 12-year-old daughter.
This was actually my first Stephen King novel. I've seen several of the movies based on his books but this was my first read/listen. The ending of this book was good, but the ride that took you there was even better. When you spend 30 hours listening to a book, it had better be good. This one was. Great characters, great dialogue and excellent narration by Craig Wasson. I felt like Jake was my friend by the time the book ended. I'd have more to say but it would involve spoilers. Need to make productive use of 30 hours? Download this book.
Wow - this is one hell of a story! It's filled with moment's that make you pause and wonder, "What would I do if given that chance?"
One again and as always, the characters are so alive, you would think you actually know them from somewhere; like an old friend. This story is about so much more than Kennedy. It's layer upon layer of the human condition, with rich turns and challenges most of us would never want to face. The end brought tears to my eyes, and left me with such mixed emotions and internal conversations, my brain will be busy for a long time trying to sort it all out.
The narrator is phenomenal! One of the BEST I've ever heard! If there's an award, better give it to HIM! No one would deserve it more!
I feel like I've been away on a time-travelling holiday. The sheer volume (30 hours plus) means that the usual things you do within a three-four or five day time-span become pre-empted by a leap into the nostalgic. I really appreciate the minute details that King injects into the 1958 world of Winston cigarette smoke filled rooms, the social ramifications of spending too much time on a Friday night at someone's home, and the love /hate affair that one can really have with an big-old car.
Time travel books can be confusing at times, but I think he's done a terrific job. The characters, as in almost every SK novel are either terrifying or very likeable, so there's a predictable comfort zone in reading any novel by this great novelist, but at the same time, I know I fell asleep listening to this book and ended up with a few unpredictable King-inspired nightmares that lingered throughout the day.... throughout the day .... throughout the.....
A few years back, my image of Stephen King was entirely made up of killer clowns and rabid dogs and possessed cars (there’s a thought: Christine as a killer clown car…), the grandpappy of a genre I had absolutely no interest in. I’d read a whole two King novels, one of them because I was forced, and never felt the need to explore further.
I still haven’t read much of his (all those books full of treasure – what a wonderful thought!), but what I have read has made me into a still-astonished fangirl. I mean, I never would have believed that Stephen King could make me cry at work – not “Oh God there’s something under my desk I think it’s a clown” crying but genuinely moved tears. But there I was, surreptitiously wiping my eyes as I listened via Audible. More than once.
He does beautiful, surprising things with words.
“My honors kids were juniors… but they wrote like little old men and little old ladies, all pursey-mouthed and ‘Oo! Don’t slip on that icy patch, Mildred!’”
“…Chased my headlights down Highway 77…”
“No wonder she looked like you could staple a string to the back of her dress and fly her like a kite.”
It’s all of a piece, I thought. It’s an echo so close to perfect you can’t tell which one is the living voice and which is the ghost voice returning. For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dream clock chiming beneath a mystery glass we call life. Behind it, below it, and around it: chaos. Storms. Men with hammers, men with knives. Men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss – surrounding a single lighted stage, where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.
This is writing I want to wrap myself up in forever.
(I made a note of one exquisite line, and I still have to follow up on it: “Scaring people is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.” And I commented that that should be on the King family arms. And then I started wanting very badly to design the King coat of arms. When I find my pencils…)
I feel a bit ashamed of the fact that I’m so surprised at the warm loveliness of some of this. “Of course it went splendidly, as cream pie fights always do.” My God, that whole chapter was a joy that left me a little giddy as a reader and a little awed as a writer.
I love “The Land of Ago”. I adore “Little by slowly”, and am incorporating it into my vocabulary.
And this made, makes me very happy:
“What might that be, Miss Caltrop?” I asked. “Because I’ve got ice cream in here and I’d like to get home before it melts.”
She gave me a chilly smile that could have kept my French vanilla firm for hours.
“That probably should have told me something, but I had too much on my mind. His story was not the least of it. That’s the curse of the reading class: we can be seduced by a good story, even at the least opportune moments.” He is of my people.
“I know life is hard, I think everyone knows that in their hearts, but why does it have to be cruel as well? Why does it have to bite?”
It’s beautiful – and it’s terrifying. There’s no killer clown here, no dog foaming at the mouth, no vampires. Instead there’s something called the Jimla, which in its mystery and in its explanation is deeply unsettling. And there’s a broom, which isn’t what you expect, but which is at least as awful. The writing can have a rather pure simplicity to it – and it just goes to show that you don’t need all that much to create terror if you do it right. “Something was moving around upstairs.” *shudder*
And it’s not just a masterful way with words: his plotting is equally beautiful. The long long buildup makes actually finally getting to 11/22/63 rather like the first day of summer vacation after a long, long school year. It’s not often that the main event of a book is so very far into a long book, and yet suspense is maintained throughout. “Get rid of one wretched waif, buddy, and you could save millions of lives,” said Al Templeton, and it actually gave me chills. Because, come on: this is a cause worthy of Don Quixote. Whatever negatives can be brought against Kennedy, there’s such an aura of mythical unfulfilled promise about him that the whole premise of the book is irresistible, to Jake as well as the reader. Who knows? If Kennedy had lived, we might not have become tangled in Vietnam. We might have had a fuller, longer space program. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. might not have been assassinated. Race relations might have improved faster, more thoroughly. Who knows? He was young, smart … promising. Who knows…
In the long, slow, gorgeous buildup of the book, Stephen King demonstrates that not only is he quite the expert on torturing his characters … he is also very good at torturing his readers. I don’t know when I’ve seen quite so much foreshadowing and “had I but known”: “Things between us might have progressed faster than they did, except for what happened during that halftime.” He uses this device a lot – but he’s so damned good at it, at making the outcome nothing you ever expected no matter how many hints he gave and how much you thought he was telegraphing, that what might elsewhere be an aggravation is, here, just another way of keeping up the suspense.
Al, who went first through time and taught Jake the little he has to work with, explained to him that time is obdurate. (That not-so-common word gets a workout in this book – it’s great.) The timeline as we know it fights any attempts to make changes. But, I thought, maybe all of the delays were to put Al just where he needed to be, not to try to stop him. I sigh for my innocence…
One thing I do wonder a bit is why Jake’s full concentration was on getting rid of Lee Harvey Oswald, the wretched waif, via the one method. He never seems to have considered other possibilities, which might have been a bit simpler and perhaps more foolproof. He also never seems to consider that if he had taken out Oswald earlier it would have prevented the second daughter’s conception. See “butterflies’ wings”, below.
The flapping of butterflies’ wings, that time-honored trope of time travel fiction, is here in full force. Jake avers that he does his best to avoid any extra flapping – but, in what may be the only real flaw I can think of, what Jake doesn’t seem to think of immediately is that his taking this apartment and that, this job and that, even this car and that, kept others from taking them. That’s a pretty significant flap. This doesn’t do to dwell on… In fact, this is the tale of an intelligent man – book smart, street stupid – who goes back in time with next to no preparation and doesn’t do too badly – until he really, really does. At one point I became so irritated with Jake’s ineptitude and what happened to him because of it that images of a scathing review and greyed-out stars in the rating area danced in my mind – and then it hit me. Of course he’s inept. Exactly how ept would anyone, any English teacher from 2011, from Maine or anywhere else, with exactly no time to prepare and no history of any of the kind of behavior George Amberson is forced into – how “ept” could anyone like that be in an alien time and – eventually – place? Of course Jake is inept. That’s kind of the point.
I’m so glad I opted for the Audible edition of this. The narrator, Craig Wasson, often sounds like Jimmy Stewart, which somehow was utterly perfect. Also, there are a lot of creepy things in the world, and one of them is a voice like Jimmy Stewart’s voicing Stephen Kingisms. The janitor’s father – Dunning – sounds like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. (I’m sure I’m missing a connection there.) And there were some pretty darn good Kennedy and Cronkite impersonations, as needed. Also? Chaz is awesome, cuz.
I seem to say this a lot lately, but – I learned a bit from 11/22/63. (For one thing, the mental lapse I’ve always suffered in trying to remember that date is now conquered, with the added bonus that I will always now know the birthday of the cousin who was born the day Kennedy was shot.) I didn’t expect the anti-Kennedy faction to be also anti-racist (in a paternalistic, no-really-segregation-is-better-for-everyone sort of way). I didn’t anticipate the inevitability of the fact that there were over 200 death threats against Kennedy on that Texas trip – a very relevant fact. I trust King’s portraits of the historical figures – and his sympathetic portrait of Marina takes away some of my usual unease at real people appearing as characters in novels (especially those still living, or with direct relatives still living). I couldn’t possibly have cared less how King portrayed the “waif” – and the almost reluctant (and very limited) sympathy which he also received, and which King forced me to also feel, caught me off guard.
In the end, the main thing I take away from this sprawling saga of time travel and love and fear is a deep affection for King’s characters. Harry Dunning. Al Templeton. Sadie Dunhill. George Amberson/Jake Epping. "Deke" Simmons, Ellen Dockerty, the kids. Even the Oswalds. I won’t forget them in a hurry. Ever. I’m probably going to apologize to Stephen King in every review I write of his books, because I was an ignorant twit when I dismissed his writing for all those years. Mea culpa.
Final comment: There’s a film adaptation coming! A series on Hulu – and filming started on June 9, 2015. Dang. Guess I’ll need to subscribe to Hulu.
Report Inappropriate Content