11/22/63 by Stephen King, Review by Corinne Donnelly
Even if you were born after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, you’re bound to learn about it in school. Much like September 11th, November 22nd, 1963 has seared itself into the minds of millions of people. 11/22/63 by Stephen King shares its title with this date, but it focuses on far more than just the JFK assassination. The novel follows Jake Epping, an English teacher from Maine, as he traverses across time in an attempt to save the ill-fated president. Along the way he stops in various towns, including Derry, Maine from Stephen King’s popular novel It, makes numerous friends and enemies, and embroils himself in many dangerous situations.
The length of the novel, while daunting, allows King to delve into incredibly nuanced character descriptions and interactions. As a highly empathetic and adventurous character, Jake attaches himself rather easily to new people and situations, which provides the reader with some fascinating insights. Lee Harvey Oswald is presented as Jake’s foil; he is a down-on-his luck, abusive piece of work who takes out his misfortunes on everyone and everything. The juxtaposition between the two characters provides an endless amount of tension, especially as the plot moves forward and their interactions become more frequent.
Structurally, the novel could technically be split into large sections with emphasis on location and time. While the narrative marches onward in a continuous story-line, the element of time travel complicates things immensely. Luckily, King adeptly maneuvers the time-line shifts. Time may be obdurate and resist change, but King has a firm grasp on how his representation of it works. I never found myself confused about where (or when) Jake ended up.
The plot and themes are also incredibly unique. The stakes are high from the very beginning of the novel, which invests the reader quite quickly. Each theme relies heavily on relationships. Many of the most fascinating moments come from Jake’s connections with people, and even minor characters see growth and regression on a major scale. No plot-line is uninteresting. In fact, one of the most integral plot threads is of a romantic nature, which certainly surprises as King’s niche lies primarily in horror.
Stephen King’s 11/22/63 brings new (and often unexpected) meaning to an important date in U.S. history. If you’re looking for historical fiction, sci-fi, horror, thriller, or even romance, you’ll be satisfied with this read. And of course, you will learn so much about Jake and his adventures that his story will stick with you for quite some time.