Narrator: Craig Wasson
Rating: 9 out of 10
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 30 hours, 44 minutes
Pages: 849 (print version)
Challenges: 2012 Audio Book Challenge
Synopsis (from Barns & Noble): It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. …his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine, to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.
Overall Impression: It’s such a pleasure to end a book and think, “Woah. Just…woah.” At the end of 11/22/63, I found myself pretty much blown away by King’s writing, research, and ability to craft a damn fine story. This alternate history / time travel was probably the best I’ve ever read, primarily because King is able to weave a story so full of characters that you love, only to mess with it in ways I won’t elaborate on here — just suffice it to say that there’s some wicked stuff that comes up.
The story itself — Jake preventing the Kennedy assassination — is the perfect framework for setting up a story within a story, of love, redemption, failure, morality, and ultimately the choices that we make. At first I thought this would be primarily about the Kennedy assassination, and King’s attempts at either proving or disproving some of the conspiracy theories. But it wasn’t at all — it was just an incredibly plotted, meticulously researched, rousing good time. It was a love letter to the late 50s and early 60s, with King managing to transport me to a time I never knew, and fill me with a nostalgia for something I’ve never experienced. It also had me guessing all the way through, wondering what the past might throw at Jake in its effort not to be changed.
If you’ve shied away from King because you thought he only writes horror, I beg you to give this one a shot. While there are some darker parts, it rarely strays into anything that would be off-putting to a reader who doesn’t like to be scared.
Positives: Beautifully plotted! Surprisingly sweet! Meticulously researched!
Negatives: It felt a little bloated in places, and there was some repetition that got a little tiresome (the past is obdurate…the past is obdurate…).
Narration: Craig Wasson really nailed this, with the exception of Sadie (Jake’s love interest) — she seemed slow, not Southern.
Other books I’ve read by Stephen King: On Writing (read before I started writing reviews), The Gunslinger (review)
Other books I’ve listened to narrated by Craig Wasson: none
Other blogger opinions:
Book Journey: “For me I can not stress enough that you must take time to read or listen to this book.”
Outgoing Signals: “I finished this one completely satisfied.”
Steve Betz: “I think King aficionados will very much enjoy this book and if you’re one of those who’s stayed away from King and are looking for an introduction,11/22/63 would be a great place to start.”