Book Review: Stephen King’s ‘11/22/63’ best read in winter

By DAVE WESTER | For the County Line

Now that the holiday hubbub has passed and real winter has set in, readers may enjoy a book that harmonizes with any lingering Christmas nostalgia and the ponderous months ahead. Stephen King’s “11/22/63” is the perfect fit.

The premise of the book is that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a significant turning point in history that precipitated a series of bad events, such as the Vietnam War. The book’s main character, Jake Epping, has the opportunity to time travel backward to undue that terrible event and set the world on a different course.

An understanding of the butterfly effect is crucial to understanding this book. The butterfly effect holds that small changes at one point in time can evolve into much larger changes later on. Jake Epping learns that he cannot simply change one event in history. One change has a ripple effect that causes other changes far beyond what Epping imagined, and not all of them are for the better.

King does a wonderful job of seasoning his book with icons that jolt the memories of anyone who remembers the ‘60s: Ford Sunliner convertibles, the gaudy tailfins of the ’59 Chevy, Carter’s Little Liver Pills, Aqua Velva, “The Edge of Night” soap opera, the Lindy Hop and many songs.

I was particularly struck by King’s reference to a national weekly newspaper called “Grit,” which I sold on a paper route in a small northern Wisconsin town during my early teens. The town had about 200 people, including an interesting assortment of hermits, alcoholics and eccentric old ladies. Most of the population was older, so I had to constantly recruit new customers to replace those who had gone to Grit heaven.

King’s research and the imagination required to weave such a complex and detailed story are mind-boggling, though the story sometimes unfolds at a ponderously slow pace. If you decide to read this book, first find a good sturdy table on which to store it. If you plan to move it around, purchase a small coaster wagon or grocery cart. At 850 pages, it has the added benefit of providing aerobic exercise when moved. It is an absolutely fascinating story that could have been a page-turner if condensed to about 400 pages. Beyond that, even page turning becomes tedious. Start it now — before spring beckons.

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