I recently took to social media to ask my fellow book lovers which of Stephen King’s many novels they would recommend for my very first Stephen King read. I got a lot of responses and many of them were similar. Many people suggested I go with his earlier works, and titles like The Shining, Carrie, and Christine came up multiple times. Some suggested I just close my eyes and grab one off the shelf because I couldn’t go wrong that way.
It is interesting to me that it has taken me thirty-five years to read Stephen King, one of the best-selling authors in the world. To be honest, I think the movie versions of his films are what kept me at bay for so long. I don’t like scary movies and I remember films like It and Carrie scaring me as a child and I thought, “No way would I ever read this book!” So I guess you could say that up until now, I’ve been too chicken to read his work.
For my introductory novel, I chose one of his recent releases, Revival. It was recommended to me by a few people and many were describing it as similar to his earlier work. I was assured by a friend that it wasn’t scary – creepy for sure and disturbing at times – but not scary. I decided it was a good place to start and started Revival on what turned out to be a very dark and stormy week in the northeast…how appropriate!
As this is my first King read, I can’t speak to whether or not Revival is reminiscent of his earlier work. But I can tell you that I was intrigued with the story right away and hooked only a couple of chapters in. One of the main characters, a Minister, finds himself struggling with questions that I think we all ask ourselves at some point in our lives…
Is there really a God?
How can there be a God if such bad things happen in this world?
What is the meaning of it all?
I think this is why I became hooked so quickly. This character was relatable. I felt for him and his struggles and wanted to follow his journey.
King’s story of a little boy named Jamie and his childhood Minister, Reverend Jacobs, is a fascinating one. As an old man, Jamie recalls and tells the story of his relationship with Reverend Jacobs, a Minister obsessed with electricity, who reminded me of Victor Frankenstein.
This story spans several decades, which I enjoyed. I love reading fully developed characters who change and grow over the course of their lifetimes. I also appreciated the way King told the story by having the two main characters continue to cross paths throughout their lives. Something that has always fascinated me was how people in our lives come and go, some staying only minutes, others staying years, and still others coming and going throughout our lives. I love reading stories that touch on this and that question the meaning of it all.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I won’t give away the ending. I will just say that I think it was an appropriate ending for the story, and I still find myself thinking about it days after I’ve finished reading it.
My friend was right – the story is disturbing at times, with images that I’m not sure I’ll get out of my head any time soon. But it wasn’t scary in the way I think of scary movies, filled with demonic monsters. This book was scary in a psychological sense. It is the way King makes the reader question everything he or she knows, or thought they knew. It leaves the reader with more unanswered questions than answered ones about life and what might lie beyond. I liked that. Revival is not a book I will soon forget. I am looking forward to my next Stephen King read and wondering in what other ways he will make me look at and question my existence.
One of my favorite quotes from the book:
“That’s how you know you’re home, I think, no matter how far you’ve gone from it or how long you’ve been in some other place. Home is where they want you to stay longer.” – Revival