19 March 2012

Lisey's Story, by Stephen King

Typical Stephen King, but I sure don't mean horror. Of course, it's got some of that in here, but the one thing King is a master at is telling a painful story through a child's eyes. Breaks your heart and chokes you up. Stephen King can write emotion you'll feel for days, and he can write it like no other.

Scott Landon is a famous horror writer and for more than twenty years, he has delighted and scared his fans with book after book after book. He is in the forefront, the center of attention, and like an extremely loyal politician's wife, Lisey is always in the background clapping, cheering, and holding onto the gifts her husband receives while he does a reading or shakes hands and autographs books for his fans. Lisey's name might be spelled wrong in articles, or simply identified as Scott's "gal pal" and that's all there is to it. And she's always been okay with it.

But this time, the story is about, and also for, Lisey. Two years after she has lost Scott when he collapsed at a reading in Bowling Green, the loss is still a gaping hole in her world. In order to move on, she begins the slow process of going through Scott's office, uncovering items and papers that at times mean nothing, but have become a source of the vultures of colleges who want to secure his writing in their archives, possibly looking for that unpublished and finished (or almost) novel. Simultaneously fending off the vultures and investigating her husband's notes, she is reminded of different parts of their twenty-some years together, including when she visited a Nashville library commencement. The silver shovel that was given to Scott was also the same shovel she used to hit an attempted assassin who shot Scott. She has been there for Scott through it all and defended him, even saving his life...more than once. Even now, as she pores over his files, she is threatened with death and mutilation from a man who she cannot stop and it becomes time for her to save Scott again, and also save her own.

At the heart of this is a love story, one so pure I finally understood why Nicholas Sparks blurbed it on the back. (I must admit, I didn't think it was a favorable indication, but it did pique my interest.)

And while there is a tad bit of horror and gore, I'd hasten to say it's more magical realism than anything else. It can be scary, but I wouldn't compare this to the fear I felt as I read 'Salem's Lot last year. Here's the reason why: since Scott was a little boy, he's been able to travel to a far-off world called Boo'ya Moon, one that at daylight is safe, but at night becomes frightening and dangerous, filled with laughers and a horrible being that can haunt your real world in any place a reflection can be found. But the daytime world is so magical, so safe, and so healing, that it's worth the risk to get there and get back before the sun sets in Boo'ya Moon. It's a place to disappear to after his father hurts him and his older brother, Paul, a place he will still visit later as an adult. And it's the place that Lisey has to visit now, to confront the past in order to move on, and to ultimately be safe.

There is sadness, loss, abuse, cutting, deranged obsessive stalking, torture, and a whole host of issues and challenges that became extremely sad to read. How could a little kid go through the things Scott did and still make it out (somewhat) all right? Or did he?

While not my favorite Stephen King novel, and I feel bad for writing that, as it's considered his most personal novel, (it was tough to get through the first 150 pages especially with all of the breaks in the passages because of inner dialogues Lisey had with her husband), I'd still rank it up there as absorbing, a little freaky, and so much, much more than a horror story. There is no doubt I'm pleased to call myself a new student of Stephen King, and I am excited to continue to read more from him.

Passages of note:
She hadn't planned what she was going to say. This was in accordance with another of Landon's Rules: you only planned out what you were going to say for disagreements. When you were really angry - when you wanted to tear someone a new asshole, as the saying was - it was usually best to just rare back and let it rip.
The last word might be Canada, probably is, but there's no way to tell for sure because by then she's lost in the land of sleep and he is too, and when they go there they never go together, and she is afraid that is also a preview of death, a place where there may be dreams but never love, never home, never a hand to hold yours when squadrons of birds flock across the burnt-orange sun at the close of the day. (p. 264)
 Lisey opens her arms and lets it fall. The sound it makes is only the softest sigh (like the arguments against insanity falling into some ultimate basement), but the long boy hears it. She feels a shift in the rowing direction of its unknowable thoughts; feels the hideous pressure of its insane regard. One of the trees snaps with an explosive rending noise as the thing over there begins to turn, and she closes her eyes again and sees the guest room as clearly as she has ever seen anything in her life, sees it with desperate intensity, and through a perfect magnifying lens of terror.
Others said (if I've missed your review, let me know):

Publisher: Scribner (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: 2006
Pages: 509

FTC Disclosure: I checked this book out of my local Virginia Beach Public Library. My copy does not reflect the cover above, but I couldn't locate that book cover online. The above cover is from Pocket Books' Mass Market Paperback.

About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The Stand, The Dark Tower series, It, The Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know. So here you go, click here to visit this wicked cool author's official website.

The Stephen King Project. My education (and others') continues! Lisey's Story is another selection for the challenge Kathleen and I are hosting. The site can be found (with other participants' reviews) here.


  1. I've never even heard of this one. It sounds good, even if it isn't your favorite.

  2. The Stephen King-y-ness of this book put me off and I had a hard time getting in to it -- but I'm so glad I persevered. As you know, I loved this one -- the love story so grabbed me. I rather appreciated King's articulation of Lisey, too -- normally I'm a hater on men writing women -- and I even crushed on Scott a bit!

  3. Even though this wasn't your favorite, it sounds like there are certain factors about it that I would really like. I'll definitely have to keep in mind for one day after I finish 11/22/63!

  4. I bought this book such a long time ago, and then lent it to a friend who never returned it :( Now I am thinking I need to go knocking on his door and get it back, because this sounds like a book I need to read! I loved your review and the way you described this one. A love story from Stephen King? Well, I am more than intrigued! Fantastic review today, Natalie!

  5. Ooh thanks for the review! I've had this book on my shelf since August. It sounds like I may have to expedite my reading process! :)


  6. Wow. This sounds so amazing! Who wouldn't want to run away to this new world when life gives them pain? I think I'll add this to my tbr list. I'm rediscovering King now with 11/22/63. He really has a way with words. Great review.

  7. Nice review. I picked this up at a book sale a few years ago without knowing anything about it other than it was by Stephen King. It sounds like I should wait until I have some time to devote to it if the beginning is hard to get through. I'm not put off by the horror parts of his writing so it's probably a good fit for me.

  8. Fantastic review. I read this back when it first came out and I enjoyed it. I remember the distinct words like Boo'ya Moon and pie bald side.

  9. Not my favourite King novel either but a good one nonetheless! Nice review!