Lisey’s Story * Stephen King Book Review

You’re good for the ones you love. You want to be good for the ones you love, because you know that your time with them will end up being too short, no matter how long it is.

Have you ever read a story which stayed with you well after the book was put down? A story about loss and love and a bit of a magical world that only writers can create?
Well Lisey’s story is this one. I think Stephen King wrote it with his wife, Tabitha, in mind – and envisioned a future where he would be dead and she would be left to pick up the pieces.


The Story

“And she sees that the moonlight is losing its orange glow. It has become buttery, and will soon turn to silver.”

This is a book about Lisey Landon, the widow of a famous author, Scott Landon. There are two main stories within the book – that of Lisey’s story in the present, and that of her dead husband’s life. Lisey is clearing out her husband’s writing space in their home which leads to a series of events that force her to recall memories and realities about her late husband.

I think everyone that ever loved and lost someone dear will find a bit of them resonating with each line.

“Sometimes she’d go a whole day without thinking of him or missing him. Why not? She had quite a full life, and really, he’d often been hard to deal with and hard to live with. A project, the Yankee old times like her very own Dad might have said. And then sometimes a day would come, a gray one (or a sunny one) when she missed him so fiercely she felt empty, not a woman at all anymore but just a dead tree filled with cold November blow. She felt like that now, felt like hollering his name and hollering him home, and her heart turned sick with the thought of the years ahead and she wondered what good love was if it came to this, to even ten seconds of feeling like this.”

In the end, no matter how beautiful the novel is, I know it’s a Stephen King novel and that something grim is going on, something darker is waiting at the edges of my vision for it’s turn to float onto the page like a dark shadow.

liseys-story.pngAs Lisey struggles to cope with the loss of her husband, and the memories, and the constant drawing into something else, something more, something she will learn is her story, Lisey’s story, a maniac comes into her life and threatens her with a dead cat in the mailbox; he wants Scott’s stuff; he considers himself one of Scott’s biggest fans. Life never says “enough” it seems, one thing after another. Her sister has a nervous breakdown and cuts her body everywhere and ends up catatonic. Lisey has to help her. In King’s world, everything the characters go through connect; they all have a greater purpose.

“It’s the pool where we all go down to drink, to swim, to catch a little fish from the edge of the shore; it’s also the pool where some hardy souls go out in their flimsy wooden boats after the big ones. It is the pool of life, the cup of imagination, and she has an idea that different people see different versions of it, but with two things ever in common: it’s always about a mile deep in the Fairy Forest, and it’s always sad. Because imagination isn’t the only thing this place is about.”

I loved that pool in Boo’ya Moon, the pool where everyone goes to heal, but also the pool where story crafters go to fish out their ideas. The images of those people stuck staring at that pool struck me deeply, and I could feel their paralysis and unwillingness to move either forward or back. I could feel the danger and how easy it would be to eventually just curl up there on those rocks beside the pool, to pull that thin shroud over yourself, and to stare into that pool until … well, until forever.

51NoNVSjDiL.jpgThe poetic language pleases the heart. King mentions in the end he wrote this from the heart and not the head. The story has some serious autobiographical similarities, yet strong points of differentiation. One point being King never knew his dad, and Scott’s dad plays a major role. These may be symbolic representations. King has written and talked about his absent father, and how much that hurt him (cut him).

The story is violent, shocking in violence (in honor of King I dropped “shockingly”), yet contrasts with the beauty of the language and the love story. This is love story, King-style. A major theme is cutting, mutilation of the body, by self and others. Insanity also weaves into fabric of the story – Scott’s dad, Scott, Scott’s brother, Lisey’s sister. Stephen King confronts the issues we don’t want to talk about. He confronts the darkness. He speaks out for those nobody wants to hear, those too ashamed to speak up, those with secrets too taboo for confession.

Scott’s imaginary world is fantasy land – both light and dark. You will want to walk the tropical beauty by day, but don’t come around at night; all becomes poison and the Laughers come out, and other things of which death would be a better meeting. Scott went to Boo’ya moon for his ideas, a place he spent to break from reality and write his stories. Psychologists, I learned in a class once, might call this “psychological flow,” the state of mind people experience when they perform certain activities, such as singing, writing, playing an instrument, or sports (he’s on fire!).

The first half or so of the book had low energy but for what it lacks in plot, it makes up in characterization and introspection. About forty-seven percent or so, things peak. They don’t pick up, they peak. The first half seemed to me like placing the pieces in a chess game. The second half seemed like a completely different game altogether, like a Roman Gladiator fight or something.

King has gone beyond the horror genre with Lisey’s Story and written a, dare I say it, literary masterpiece. Its part horror, part love story, part tribute to a woman’s husband. It’s part creepshow, part romance and absolutely unclassifiable. King has written a novel that, while hard to classify, has a heart that beats at its centre.I keep wanting to speed forward while reading Lisey’s Story.

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