I was blown away with the intricate details Stephen King dedicated to the tale of a school teacher who travels back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination in “11/22/63.” The only way I was going to make it through the more than 800 pages was if the story was magnificently told, and it was. “11/22/63” is everything a time traveler, historian, or 1950’s Americana freak could want, and King answers the decades old questions of whether Oswald was the only shooter.
Set in present day, and told in a first person, high school teacher Jake’s narration added a personal element to the story that could not exist without his candor and humor. When Jake is asked by Al to come to his diner, Jake never expects he will walk through the storeroom and end up in 1958. The time portal transports a person to the same day and time in 1958 each time they walk through it. Al tells Jake of his plan to thwart the Kennedy assassination, which is halted when his cancer radically progresses. Jake decides to stop Oswald, which can only be accomplished by assuming a new identify as George Amberson and living in the past for over four years until that fateful day in Dallas.
While George waits for Dallas, he tries to alter history for the good of those he knew in 2011. He knows that just existing in the past will alter the future, but he won’t know how until he returns to the present. George begins teaching at a high school, where he meets and falls in love with Sadie, another teacher. As the assassination nears, he struggles to lead a double life, teacher by day, Oswald watcher by night. The details used by King to describe Oswald’s plot were so intricate that it read like a biography. The conversations Oswald engages in seemed plausible, as did the description of where he lived and the circumstances of his family life.
At times, I found the story to be unnecessarily over descriptive. King can’t just say that a character walks through the kitchen into the storeroom, he has to describe four appliances the character walks by on the way. But, the style created an entire world, not just a hurried story, which I appreciated. The story also focused on many characters and seemed to veer in several directions, but the importance of those subplots was suddenly clear at the end of the book.
I want to thank Andrew Zuk for recommending this book to me because I probably would never have picked up a King novel, and I would have missed out! I highly recommend this one!