From the back of the book: Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away . . . but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke. . . . Finding himself in warmhearted Jolie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten . . . and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.
I know that when it comes to Stephen King, many people immediately associate his name with gruesome thrillers like Carrie, and may be hesitant to pick up any of his more recent offerings if 'gory-thriller' isn't their genre of choice. Yes, Stephen King is the master of horror fiction, but in my humble opinion, he's also one of the most talented authors of our time, and 11/22/63 is one of the best novels I've read this year. It was just perfectly crafted, down to every last little detail. That's not to say that 11/22/63 is completely without gore or violence--it's not--but it absolutely contains much less gore than most of King's past works, and when the gore and violence does appear, it's absolutely crucial to the plot, and I can totally appreciate that.
But basically, 11/22/63 boils down to the age old time-travel conundrum--if you change one thing in the past, do you really change everything? And even if it does change everything, is it worth it? Jake Epping travels through the wormhole-of-sorts back to 1963 to grapple with that very issue, and we have the privilege of going along for the ride....what a ride it is! King seamlessly combines our nostalgic perspective of 1963 with the realities of that time, and then somehow manages to make them fit perfectly with a 2011 world as well, crafting a world quite unlike any other, and it's...in a word...awesome. I couldn't imagine how this story could have been better crafted. And be still my soul, there is even an appropriate and well-crafted conclusion!
Overall? I loved it. It was one of my favorite books I've read this year by far! Not convinced? Take a look at this excerpt and decide for yourself! But my verdict is as follows:
Disclosure Statement: I checked out 11/22/63 from the library, read it, and am now writing my review. I was not compensated for my review in any way. Regardless, I don't think I could lie about a book even if I wanted to!