“The past is obdurate.” This line is repeated throughout Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63. I just finished reading this book last week. In short, it’s a story about a man in 2011, Jake Epping, a school teacher who discovers a rabbit hole that takes him back in time to 1958, where he attempts to change the course of history by preventing the JFK assassination.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m not writing a comprehensive review. I just want to lay out some thoughts I have about the book. I’m not going to explain the intricacies of the story in detail. You can find that information elsewhere. If you haven’t yet read the book, then I don’t recommend reading the rest of my post because I might mention a few spoilers and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.
11/22/63 is quite a long book, totaling 849 pages. I didn’t actually read the text. I listened to the Audible audiobook version, which topped 30 hours. I must applaud the narrator, Craig Wasson. He did a spectacular job with the text and voices in the book. He easily has the best audiobook voice I’ve ever heard. I don’t know if that boosted my appreciation for the book, but listening to the audio certainly provided a very lifelike reality to the words.
I got sucked in right away. I enjoyed all of the characters, with my favorite being Al. My reading/listening reached a terrific climax with Jake’s first attempt to stop Frank Dunning from his murderous rampage on Halloween. I was literally on the edge of my seat. The writing was fabulous. After that incredible scene concluded, I clearly remember the sentence, “Then I stepped out into Halloween night of 1958.” The way that line was delivered in audio was outstanding.
After that dramatic point in the story, things slowed down a bit with Jake’s excursions in Jodie teaching school. I still enjoyed it quite a bit, but I admit that it was rather lengthy in parts. I knew a second climax was building in the attempt to stop Oswald in 1963. After what seemed like a long time coming, that moment finally arrived and I was once again on the edge of my seat. Again, there was great writing and suspense in those moments.
My intrigue was with the rabbit hole itself and the potential to travel back to a specific point in time. Such a concept could have been made into a series of books. I almost wish the concept wasn’t confined to this one book.
I didn’t think that the yellow card man needed such a detailed one-on-one explanation at the end of the book. I don’t think it should have been delivered within a conversation, at least. Why did Jake receive a whole explanatory speech and Al had not, despite Al going back in time to buy meat for the diner, possibly hundreds of times? I suppose it’s because Jake had tried to alter the past to such an extent. But why didn’t Jake at least ask if there were other rabbit holes, or for other information in general? I would have.
I greatly enjoyed the book, but I do feel like it went slightly astray, or at least dragged on too long after that second climax. It took too long for Jake to go back to the future, for instance. Once he finally returned to 2011, I wasn’t all that thrilled with how things progressed, or at least the way it was delivered. Perhaps it would have been better to end the story on a cliffhanger, leaving to the imagination of the reader to determine what happened in the future.
The ending was slightly ho-hum for me. I’m not complaining. I just wish it had been left with a little more mystery and uncertainty. Leave more questions than answers, I say. I was actually hoping that the book would end with Jake taking a breath and going back once again to 1958 to start all over with Sadie. Jake steps through the rabbit hole, his ears pop, and close curtain. I would have preferred that.
Again, I really enjoyed this book. It’s apparent that an abundance of research and talent went into writing it. Stephen King crafted an amazing story, as always. He has been and continues to be one of my favorite authors. If the sheer length of 11/22/63 doesn’t put you off, I highly recommend reading it.