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Review: “Lisey’s Story”, by Stephen King

Lisey’s Story

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author: Stephen King

Year: 2006

Publisher: Scribner

ISBN: 0743289412

Stephen King’s next novel, “Lisey’s Story”, will be published in October. I was lucky enough to pick up an advance reader’s copy at ALA, so here’s my first ever preprint review.

I should preface my thoughts by saying that I’m not a huge devotee of King’s books. I’ve read a few and liked them, but haven’t experienced enough to say how Lisey’s Story stacks up against his other work. All I can say is that I liked this one.

Lisey Landon is the widow of Scott Landon, an extremely successful novelist. Scott died two years ago, but Lisey is still grieving. As she starts cleaning out his study, repressed memories surface. The plot gets really complicated from there, so I’m going to quote the back cover: “Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went – a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to face Scott’s demons, Lisey’s turn to go to Boo’ya Moon.”

But there’s more to it than that. Lisey has to fend of dangerously unhinged academics who want access to Scott’s archives. Meanwhile her sister’s mental problems worsen and demand much of her time. I know none of this is a good summary, but Lisey’s Story is just a book I can’t figure out how to sum up well. It’s just over 500 pages of multiple complicated, interweaving plots.

Much of the story is told through flashbacks to defining moments of the Landon marriage, as well as Scott’s disturbing childhood. I really felt like I got to know Scott and Lisey as real people. The have the little quirks that define real life – nonsense words made up between them that slip into casual conversation, not always taking the rational route to solve a problem, etc. Their love and marriage is real, and King does a great job conveying it. At times I started to wonder if the book is semi-autobiographical; Scott’s books are mostly deep and thoughtful, but his greatest commercial success is the one horror book he almost accidentally wrote. A pool in his alternate world also fuels Scott’s writing process, and King talks about it as a concept that really exists a bit in a closing statement.

But it isn’t all a romance or treatise on writing. There’s some very dark fantasy thrown in, involving another world that Scott could visit at will. Somehow King ties it all back into Lisey’s grieving process, which really is the central point of the book.

The writing style is a bit different than what I’m used to, but it works. Lisey’s chapters in the present day are written in the past tense, but flashbacks switch over to present tense. It’s jarring at first, and takes some time to get used to. But after I adapted the tense change really helped to tell at a moment’s glance whether a block of text is set in the past.

I feel like I’m not writing a very good review here. I’ve gone back over it and tried to make things more sensical, but I can’t find a way. In the end I can mostly just say that I liked it, and I enjoyed getting to know Scott and Lisey.

The cover of my copy has “NOT FOR SALE” in large letters, and a lengthy letter which politely asks readers to not sell the advance copy on eBay. Here’s a picture. Unfortunately, a quick search shows that a number have been sold anyway. I would feel really guilty selling mine, but also have no particular reason to hold on to it – my shelves already sag, and this book’s light paper cover won’t hold up to a lot of wear. Like any librarian, I hate to throw a book out. So, do you want it? I’ll give preference to Huntsville locals to avoid the hassle of shipping, and next to people I’ve actually met. I only ask that you promise not to sell the book yourself, and chip in for shipping. Send me an e-mail or get in touch some other way if you’re interested.

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