by Stephen King
Jake is an English teacher living a relatively nondescript life in 2011. Then he’s introduced to the “rabbit hole” a time-travel portal that spits you out in 1958. He’s told he needs to stop the Kennedy assassination and the saga that follows is a long road through the late ‘50s and early ‘60s through the eyes of a modern day man.
Technically the Kennedy assassination is the central plot, but it’s really about so much more than that. King has such a gift for crafting characters you care about deeply. He also managed to make me nostalgic for a time period that I never even knew. It's hard to explain exactly what it is about this novel that's so romantically nostalgic. King reminisces about sock hops and milkshakes, but it’s more about the atmosphere of small-town camaraderie than anything concrete.
Even though the book looks at that era through rose colored glasses, he also acknowledges the problems from that time period. There is racism and censorship in schools, there’s prejudice against anyone whose life veers outside the declared “norm.” King doesn’t gloss over those elements and that made the plot much more realistic.
There's a lovely cadence that the plot of the whole book follows, a tide of swells up and down, settling in new places, following his path to Lee Harvey Oswald and hitting roadblocks along the way. He inevitably must create a new life in the past and that complicates things further. The romance in the book can be a bit sappy at times, but it wasn’t overly so. There are also a slew of other characters that add depth to each scene. I loved Mimi a Texas librarian and Mike a jock with some serious acting chops.
Throughout the book King reiterates his belief that the past harmonizes. He says it over and over again, reminding the reader that the past finds patterns and repeats itself in ways that mirror other experiences. It was an interesting concept and though it also meant the book has some repetitive elements that grow a bit tiresome. It was an unavoidable facet of the plot since that’s part of the point of it all. I do think there are definite sections that could have been cut, but no one reads Stephen King because he’s short-winded!
It’s funny; I couldn’t help but think of the novel “Time and Again” over and over as I read this one. Then in the Afterward King says that’s his favorite time travel story of all time and in many ways it inspired this one.
BOTTOM LINE: A big, fat summer read with love and loss and plenty of twists. This isn’t a fast read, but it’s a good one. Sink into it and explore the past with Jake.
“Everyone knows that for such an unforgiving thing, time is uniquely malleable.”
**SIDENOTE: The audiobook version of this was excellent. The only part that bugged me was an off Jimmy Stewart-style voice the narrator used for one character towards the end of the book.**
Also, I am so glad I read “IT” right before this. I had no idea there was a plot overlap, but I definitely wouldn’t have appreciated some parts of the book if I hadn’t read “IT.”