Book Review: "11/22/63" by Stephen King

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The cover of 11/22/63 is enough to draw in a huge readership. You have the name of the literal and figurative king of horror. History buffs will recognize the eponymous date that U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin, presumably Lee Harvey Oswald. I don't know about you, but I was easily sucked in.

On first glance, I was curious if this was another of Stephen King's forays into non-fiction. There is no denying that the man is fixated on an earlier, simpler America. Perhaps it was time for him to write facts about the times that inspired him. Was 11//22/6 something else like Richard Preston's The Hot Zone–a non-fiction book told like a novel? Was Stephen King combining fact and fiction? It turned out to be the latter.

King has obviously waded through a mountain of research to complete 11/22/63 and, as far as this history buff can tell, he never grievously deviates from the facts as we know them. In fact, he digs right into the gritty little details. One cannot help noticing that King seems to enjoy these details–the gritty story of the bad guy. He always has.

I will try to give away practically nothing about this book because I want you to read it. So, I will have to be cryptic. Yes, this book delves deeply into the assassination of President Kennedy, but more the events leading up to it. The central characters in the book are not historical figures. They are the usual fictitious small town, likeable, flawed characters you find in King's novels. They are in quite an unusual situation. The past and the present intertwine with love, loss and a struggle against the supernatural. There is also a brilliant nod to It in 11/22/63. If you are a fan, you cannot miss it.

When I first started reading, I thought that I was going to spend the whole time wanting to skip ahead to the moment King provoked us with. He certainly did not need this topic to sell books, so my only explanation is that he knew we would be itching to find out what happens in Dealey Plaza in Stephen King's imagination. However, to my surprise, I did not skip forward once. I wanted more to know how he got there than what happened once he did. I knew King was not going to do something crazy like change history . . . or was he? You will have to find out.

Update: The book was made into a very good miniseries. Check that out too, if you can.

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