Last month I was
whining lamenting the fact that I didn’t think I would finish the Unofficial 2016 TBR Pile Challenge. I had three options left, and needed to read two of them. Two of them, 11/22/63 and I Am Pilgrim were quite lengthy and I’ve been trying to find a copy of My Cousin Rachel all year.
But then, Buried in Print was like I will read 11/22/63 with you!
And I can’t ever say no to that.
Plus, I was feeling like taking a break from the non-fiction business.
I am SO glad that you made me read this. I loved it. Plus, it’s literally been on my list for FIVE years (it was the first on my TBR but one) and now I’ve finally read it.
So for the couple of you that haven’t read Stephen King’s 11/22/63, here’s the gist of it: There’s some kind of time portal at the back of Al’s Diner and Al had been using it to go back to prevent the assassination of JFK. But when he gets sick and realizes he won’t be able to finish the job, he asks his friend Jake to do it. When you walk through the portal, it’s September 1958 and every time you walk back through the portal, everything resets to September 1958.
My version of the book had 1080 pages and I finished it in three days. This book was compelling, interesting, funny, nostalgic, wonderful.
Jake, aka George Amberson, kind of falls in love with the world as it was. He sees the late 1950s, early 1960s as this kind of simple, idyllic paradise, where people are more honest and trusting. But of course, it’s also way more racist and sexist. People are not tolerant of those who are different in any way. At times I was annoyed at this view of the past as better than now. For many people, the past was dangerous. If you were not straight, cis-gendered, white and hopefully male, life was kind of a rough go.
The whole time Jake/George was in the past, I was dying to see what the modern world would look like once he had changed this one watershed moment. His friend Al was convinced that Vietnam, the shooting deaths of RFK and Martin Luther King Jr happened because JFK was shot. He envisioned a better world where JFK lived.
Well. George Wallace ended up becoming president after JFK, so.
I couldn’t help but be struck by some of the parallels in this new modern world and what we’re seeing now. In a world where JFK had lived, people felt like he wasn’t speaking for them, they felt left out and looked for an alternative that felt closer to home. In Jake’s new modern world, earthquakes are a regular occurrence, and Maine is now a part of Canada, annexed when problems with nuclear fallout became too big to handle.
This part was like a punch in the gut I did not see coming:
“Bill Clinton’s president?”
“Gosh, no. He was a shoo-in for the ’04 nomination, but he died of a heart attack at the convention. His wife stepped in. She’s president.”
11/22/63 strikes me as an incredibly appropriate book to have read right now. The whole thing seems to be telling us that the past can’t be changed. That it’s not productive to dwell on what could have been. That we need to look forward and change what we can control.
That’s a message that I found great comfort in.