I was a somewhat gifted young student, breezing his way through grade 4, already a voracious reader, and quickly running out of interesting books in the school library. While waiting in line at the neighbourhood convenience store, Coke and Doritos in hand, I spotted this creepy, mangy, angry cat staring at me from the paperback rack. It was a book called Pet Semetary (which sounded really cool), by some guy named Stephen King (whom I'd never heard of), and it was thick enough to impress my teachers (which I craved). I bought it. I read it. I loved it.
It was the first 'grown up' novel I would ever read, and it launched me into a world from which I would never return. Over the years, King has pleased me, blown me away, frustrated me, even disappointed me - and that's okay. We've grown up together, and even the disappointments were better than the best other genre authors had to offer.
Lisey's Story pleased me. It's not the best story he's ever written, but it is some of his finest writing. It's a casual style, one that feels familiar . . . almost hypnotic in its flow. A deceptively easy read that pulls you in and carries you along.
As far as plot is concerned, it reminded me very much of the period in which he produced Gerald's Game and Rose Madder - intense, focussed, emotional, character-driven stories. What sets this above those two disappointments is the element of suspense. I read half the book in one night, intensely curious to find out just what happened to Scott and what all these 'bools' and 'Boo'ya Moons' were about. The stalker element threw me off -- the story could have worked fine without it -- but the final revelations about Scott's childhood really sealed the deal. You want to know more, need to understand, but we have to work just as hard as Lisey to get through all of the memories.
The book lags a bit in the final chapters, becomes almost too self-indulgent, and the resolution of the stalker storyline seems . . . well, forced. Then again, that tends to be a hallmark of King's novels -- more often than not, the destination doesn't quite live up to the journey.