This was my introduction to Stephen King and I wasn't sure what to expect. He's certainly been at the forefront of the literary world for quite sometime, but considering that some of the other authors who regularly make the bestsellers list over and over rub me the wrong way, I didn't know if I'd be sold. Turns out, the guy is brilliant; 11/22/63 was freaking awesome. The only thing I knew about this novel before I started it was that 1. it made the New York Times Ten Best Books of 2011 list and 2. it was about a man who traveled back in time in attempt to stop the assassination of JFK. Part of the delight of reading this book, for me, were the surprises of our main character's journey itself, not knowing what would happen next, and the nuances of King's version of time travel. Keeping this idea in mind, I am going to refrain from giving too much away in this review.
The premise of the novel is what initially drew me to this book, but in the end the reasons I adored it so much was not because it was a time travel novel (I'm a serious sucker for those) but because it was truly moving and really made me think. The idea that "the past is obdurate" gives Jake all sorts of problems when he travels back in time, as if he has to work against the universe itself to change the past. And then there is the question of the butterfly effect; by changing something in the past what will you alter in the future? Ultimately, does one's manipulation of the future prove to be worth it after its ramifications surface? How tightly are the past the present woven together and is there truly a destiny for each of us? Though the novel takes place in two different decades there are universal ideas that doesn't change over time, namely love, loss, trust and nostalgia.
“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”I enjoyed my time in the "land of ago," a time before cell phones and internet, when the soda tasted sweeter and the pies were creamier. The novel as a whole is well researched masterfully plotted. The end notes are worth reading as well. Here King explains that he started to write this novel in the 70's but set it aside after deciding it was "too soon" after JFK's assassination, choosing to return to the novel after his career was more established. He also touches on the fact that it was never 100% proven Lee Harvey Oswald was the one who killed JFK - many speculate he didn't work alone, or that he didn't have anything to do with it at all. King spent plenty of time researching these claims, citing what he believed are the most noteworthy books about the subject. After years of research, King claims he is 98% certain, sometimes 99%, that Oswald was the one who did it.
One other thing I want to metion - if you are put off by this book because of it's length, don't be. I can honestly say this novel does not feel as long as the pages it holds (849) and by the time you finish you will wish it was longer because you don't want it to be over. It has taken me longer to read a slow 300 page novel than it did for me to finish King's tome. If you are interested in the novel, just pick it up and forget its length! This book is nothing short of incredible.
A big thanks to my sister who gifted this book to me for Christmas.
Publisher: Scribner, 2011