Book Review: Revival

Five StarsI am in awe. I want to give this book more than five stars, but I don’t want to have to recalibrate my other reviews. Five stars mean I love it, and I loved Revival.

Revival is the first of Stephen King’s book I have read. After having seen several movies based on his books, I had concluded I wouldn’t enjoy his books. Horror stories just aren’t my thing. Thankfully, I recently read his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, in which he introduces readers to his thought process when deciding what to write about as well as tips to those who wish to become better writers. From it, I learned that King observes the everyday and ordinary around him and then figures out how to create a riveting story around them. I knew I wanted to read them, not rely on a Hollywood rendition of his stories. And now I know I want to write like him, too.

Everything about Revival delighted me. It’s the story of Jamie Morton, an ordinary six-year-old boy living in a small town in Maine, and Charles Jacobs, a young adult, a newcomer in town who arrives with his wife and young son to take up the vacant Methodist minister position at the church just down the road from Jamie’s home. Rev. Jacobs  introduces the boy to wonder, a metaphorical breathing life into him. Though tragedy strikes Jacobs, causing him to leave town after only three years, the connection between the two remains, bringing them together 30 years later and then again in another 20 years.

Initially King surrounds the story and characters with innocence and wonder, characteristics of an idealized happy childhood. But it is no fairy tale; it is simply a well-written story with just enough hooks and teasers to keep the reader turning the pages to figure out what sadness awaits Jamie as well as what in the world the title of the book means.

I had expected to read a horror story; eventually it appeared. But everything leading up to it kept me smiling in recognition of what the passage of time does to tease, punch, and kick us as childhood blends into youth and then into adulthood, middle age, and finally into that age King describes as “how the fuck did I get old so soon?” King includes just enough stories of love–first love, later lust, even a case of abusive love–to keep the larger story moving forward.

Revival is a story about relationships and what makes–or breaks–them, and why they are important to us. It is a story of love, dependence, independence, and redemption as well as including just enough mystery to keep the reader turning the pages to see what else is in store. King uses the analogy of cooking a frog by placing it in a pot of cold water and then gently applying the heat so the frog doesn’t notice the water getting warmer to explain Jamie’s transformation through the story. King does the same for his readers with the horror story in Revival. By the time the horror appeared, I felt satisfied, not shocked or frightened. I didn’t notice the water getting hotter at all.

Book Review: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Five StarsonwritingIn On Writing, King introduces himself through his early life experiences, suggests what tools I should keep in my toolbox, and then shares what works for him when he writes. His unpretentious writing style made me feel as though King were sitting in my living room, sharing a cup of coffee along with his stories. I felt privileged to have him share so much of his wisdom as well as his humor.

I admit I haven’t read Stephen King’s novels. Horror is not my preferred genre. But I haven’t escaped seeing his movies, so I didn’t feel ignorant of his work. After reading On Writing, I want to read all his books.

Of the books on writing I have read, this is the best, not because here are hidden secrets in it, but because of his stories of where his stories came from. And the story is central.