In one of those interesting confluences of events, recently I found myself enmeshed in all things Kennedy (as in John Fitzgerald). It started with a Christmas gift – a copy of 11/22/63, the new novel by Stephen King that focuses on one man’s time travels and his attempt to prevent JFK’s assassination. As it happens, I was visiting my son who lives in Dallas when I received and began reading the book. So we thought it appropriate to take a ride out to Dealy Plaza and wander around the famous Book Depository Building.
It was strange, being there in that spot while I was reading King’s eerie description of that time and place. There it was, the Book Depository building that King described as having an “evil, blank face.” The sixth floor corner where Lee Harvey Oswald hunkered down to fire those fatal shots is now a museum, but the same window stares down with empty eyes onto the street. And how chilling it was seeing an “x” marked on the roadway in the spot where each of the shots made impact with the President’s head.
The whole scene seemed smaller, more claustrophobic than I would have expected. Having only seen ancient black and white film footage, the road seemed large and expansive, where in reality it’s a small two lane section of city street, flanked closely by buildings. But being there in the actual city where history occurred and where so much of King’s book is set, certainly added an extra dimension of realism to an already fantastic read.
The novel was, without a doubt, one of the most compelling stories I’ve read in a long time. I’ve not read much of King’s work, but when I have, I’m always struck by way he can write so sparingly (which may seem an odd way to describe an 870 page book) and yet convey such strong feelings. There are no wasted words despite the size of this tome. It’s all rip-roaring story, and reading it felt like being in a race car slamming around a track at top speed.
King looks not just at what happened in Dallas, but also at what the world was like in the years between 1958 and 1963, and how the seeds of 11/22/63 have come to fruition in the world of 2012. For Jake Epping (aka George Amberson), the past calls to him with a siren song. When he slips through the worm hole that allows him passage into that time period, he finds a lot to love, including a woman who steals his heart. So in the midst of a time-travel thriller, King inserts an authentic love story with lasting ramifications for our intrepid hero.
I finished the novel in less than a week, hauling it around the house with me, unable to put it down. And in one last bit of Kennedy confabulation, I was searching my TiVo for something to watch one night just after finishing the book, when I found a special program my husband had recorded back in September – Conversations With Jacqueline Kennedy, a recently released set of audio tapes which Jackie recorded just months after the President’s death. So for two hours, I listened to her inimitable, breathy voice, layered over photo montages of their early days together all the way up to that fateful day which had been in my mind so much over the past week.
*Note: If you read and review this book, or any other Stephen King book, why not add join the Stephen King Project, a year long challenge hosted by Natalie (Coffee and A Book Chick) and Kathleen (Boarding in My Forties).