- 11/22/63 was published November 8, 2011
- Publisher: Scribner
- 849 pages
The main character of 11/22/63 is Jake Epping. He’s one of those easy going American hero types. You know, the thirty-five-year old divorced high school English teacher who lives in Lisbon Falls, Maine, loves his students and teaches GED courses part-time to adults. Warming up to him takes about two lines.
One evening, he’s reading an essay from one of his adult students, Harry Dunning. This janitor is a kind man with a terrible limp and one of Jake’s favorite people. While reading Dunning’s story, Epping is immediately sucked in to the engrossing, but deeply disturbing evening when the man’s father came home and killed his mother, sister and brother. This story sticks in the mind and will soon be an impetus for Epping to take a leap of faith when another friend comes calling.
Al, who runs the local diner in Lisbon decides to share with Jake a fascinating secret: somehow walking through his diner’s storeroom you pass from the present into 1958. The mystery of this is never explained, thankfully. It just is. Somehow 2011 Maine is connected to 1958 Maine through this diner. Jake can visit the past beginning in 1958 and stay as long as he likes – but if he returns to the present, it’s only two minutes later in 2011. But every visit is a reset. He can change the past and the present, but if he goes back again, he has to start all over.
In the midst of talking about the time travel and its rules and regulations, Jake discovers that Al has a plan for him to change history and stop the Kennedy assassination. Al has tried, but never made it to 11/22/63 because of a terrible illness that has weakened him and will take his life any moment. Despite Jake’s reservations, he agrees to take on the challenge and enters the 50s with some money and foreknowledge that could change the course of history if he succeeds.
So Jake takes the plunge – to change Dunning’s story, Oswald’s story, Kennedy’s story, America’s story and consequently, his own. He exchanges modern convenience and style for classic cars, sock hops, fatty foods and an adventure into the unknown. Along the way he’ll travel through New England and the South, stop murders, mess with gambling bookies and the mafia and meet a high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill who will become the love of his life. But the past is obdurate as Jake discovers and nothing in his story or everyone he interacts with goes exactly to plan.
11/22/63 is great novel for spring break or summer vacation. It will string you along and endear you to many of its wonderful characters. The story has three main acts and each time you think Epping or King might be losing steam, the tale takes a turn that pulls you right back in. It doesn’t hurt that the main focus is a love story that keeps you coming back for more. King is a great writer with a classic voice that can spin a yarn with the best. So pick this book up at your local library and prepare to ease right into a story about a time traveler who goes back to that infamous day to stop the assassination of one John F. Kennedy but ends accomplishing so much more. It’s worth the trip, all 849 pages.