Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen KingThis book was on the shortlist for the Indie Lit Awards in the Speculative Fiction genre. As I was in the jury for this genre, I had to read it, which was a pleasure to do! (And actually, I wanted to read it anyway, not just for the awards).

It’s a huge book, and it could have been a bit shorter for my liking, but a good read anyway.

11/22/63: What it is about

Jake Epping, a 35-year old high school teacher, is asked by hamburger concession owner Al to go back in time to stop president Kennedy from being assassinated. Al has found a portal to the past in his store room. He is too ill himself to make any more journeys into the past (although he’s been there many times) and so he hopes Jake will do this for him. Every trip, however long it takes in the past, only lasts two minutes in the current time.

Before he makes up his mind, a mature student tells him about a horrific incident in which his father killed most of his family. Jake decides to interfere in this incident which happened in 1958, the year that the portal leads to.  Then he waits until 1963 to try and stop the Kennedy assassination. But while waiting, he falls in love.

11/22/63: What I thought

I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the 1950s feel. It was clear that King had spend time researching the details to make this a convincing story.

The first 100 or so pages were a bit slow, but then the story took off. There were some slow bits in the middle too. At least, Jake spends several years seeking out Lee Harvey Oswald and making plans to stop him from murdering Kennedy. This I found a little boring at times. Too much focus was given on this. I enjoyed the love story with Sadie much more.

The book felt a bit disjointed at times because of the different story lines. The result of Jake’s visit to the past was surprising and could maybe have been expanded on a little more.

But overall, this was a very good read with a great feel for the time.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I got this book: for review from Simon & Schuster for the Indie Lit Awards.

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 850

First published: 2011

Genre: science fiction

The Stephen King Project

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43 Responses to Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

  1. Joanna says:

    I just reviewed this too, Judith, and like you I liked it a lot. After reading your thoughts I realised that I also found all the details about Oswald a little boring. I think some authors research so much that they hate to cut anything from their work. King at his level of success probably has few people around who bother to tell him to cut anything. A clever way of writing about time travel I think.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Joanna, a good writer isn’t worried about throwing out some of their writing… but yes, maybe no one dared to say much to the great writer. I guess he liked the Oswald part a lot himself.

  2. JoV says:

    It’s awesome you read the book! I heard so much about it but it’s such a daunting chunkster. Not sure if I have the courage to read it…

    • Leeswammes says:

      JoV, after the first 100 or so pages, it’s quite a fast read. I mean, it’s still 800 pages, but it’s not *War and Peace*. You will finish it before the decade is over.

  3. I LOVED this book. The time period, and flashbacks to growing up were so fun, and I loved that it was not a horror fest.

  4. Lindsay says:

    I bought this one second hand recently and have seen so many good reviews of it, I really need to find the time to get stuck into it, it sounds great.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Lindsay, it’s a reasonably fast read (given the size) so I hope you’ll try it. I’m not a fan of the horror-type of books by King but I like his science fiction/time travel books.

  5. I am a bit nervous to read this one due to the length, not to mention I am not generally a fan of King’s. I found a copy at Half Price Books the other day so I bought it because I figured it was something my husband might like as well.

  6. Chinoiseries says:

    I am glad that you also liked this book 🙂 I agree with you that King managed to capture the feel of the fifties. A bit too long, yes, but it was worth every page!

  7. I won an audiobook copy of this on a book blog giveaway and am about halfway through listening to it. It’s taking me a bit longer than I imagined it would and I think part of it is the narrator, he’s quite cheesey in his accents and a bit melodramatic in the rest. I’ve been enjoying the actual story so far but if Jake says the past is obdurate one more time I’m going to lose it!

  8. This has been on my wishlist for quite some time, because of the time-travelling.. I will have to buy it now, Judith…
    I have only read one other King book, The Long Walk, and I liked that too. This also was not a horror story. I don’t think I would love those.

  9. Lena Sledge's Blog says:

    That’s one heck of a book at 850 pages. But it sounds like it was worth every page. I love books that have great settings with in depth details. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I’ve got this on my TBR list!

  11. I so loved this book and in my recent project, I’m learning that King enjoys telling stories so much that he tends to meander quite a bit and relay anecdotes that don’t really have anything to do with the primary story. But, I end up loving the anecdotes just as much. so it works for me! I bawled like a baby at the end and it convinced me that Stephen King is a legend and that I need to read much, much more from him. I was breathless through several sections in this book and couldn’t put it down. I’m not normally a fast reader, but I did read this wallop of a book in less than a week! One thing that I also loved about this book was that it proved that Stephen King is not just all horror, all the time. He can do much, much more.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book as well! Willl you have more Stephen King on the docket for you this year? If so, I would recommend to you ‘Salem’s Lot and the audiobook version of The Breathing Method, which is just a little under three hours. Those are both definitely creepy/scary horror stories!

    Feel free to link up this review to so Kathleen and I can put you in the running for our monthly prizes! If youw ant to add the button to the post, too, that would be great! 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Wow, Natalie, sounds like you really liked this one, reading it within a week. I think I read it in 5 days, but I am a very fast reader.

      Indeed, King can do much more than just horror. I’m not sure if I get around to any of his other books soon as I have such a pile still to read. Thanks for the suggestions, though.

      I’ll add the review to your project and will put the button in the post!

  12. Athira says:

    I’m not usually into Stephen King, but this is a novel I really want to read. Since I just came out off another huge novel, I’ll wait a while before I dive in.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Athira, this is not the standard Stephen King (horrow-type stories) and I think I like those “other” books by King a lot. I loved The Stand too. Hope you’ll get round to the book soon.

  13. Leslie says:

    This was one of my two favorite books last year. I listened to the audio and the time just flew past. It was fantastic.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Was *Ready Player One* one of your other favorites, Lesllie? Both books were shortlisted in the Indie Lit Awards (and RPO won).

      • Leslie says:

        That was my other favorite. They were both number one for me.

      • Leeswammes says:

        Yes, I thought you loved Ready Player One, Leslie. I saw a paperback of RPO in the book shop today. I felt like picking it up and holding it above my head, meanwhile calling out: “Buy this book! It’s really good!”, but I decided not to do that. 😉

  14. Trish says:

    King certainly loves his long books, huh? I’m trying to work myself up to reading The Stand but the length. Sheesh. I’m glad that you enjoyed this one. Living in Dallas I’m always curious about the events surrounding JFK’s assasination. And he falls in love?! Very intriguied by this one.

    • Leeswammes says:

      It’s a very good novel, Trish, and living in Dallas, I think you should read it. The main character lives near Dallas (and in) for a long time.

      The Stand is very good if you like dystopia.

  15. sammano says:

    I just reviewed this book on my blog and agree with your conclusions. It is a great read but might have benefited from being a hundred or so pages shorter.

  16. LZH says:

    I have a question. Toward the end of the book (page 829 on my Kindle), when he is at the drive-in, he says: “I’m going back. But before I do . . . . Coffee wasn’t the only thing I bought in the snackbar.” What is he talking about? What did he buy?

  17. I also love the 1950s feel of the book. He clearly spent a lot of time researching the finer details. King is a great descriptive writer. I hope you’ll take a look at my review of Dolores Claiborne for the Stephen King Project this month 🙂

  18. boardinginmyforties says:

    Thanks for being part of the Project. I appreciate your review and you seem to mention what others who have read the book do, which is that the book could have been shorter. I look forward to reading this one.

  19. Pingback: 2012: #31 – 11/22/63 (Stephen King) | Confessions of a Bibliophile

  20. I reviewed this book recently , and I was interested that you thought the book was overlong and that too much time was spent on Jake’s plans. I thought that this was pretty necessary, as the success of Jake’s plan was vital to the elimination of all chance errors. No?

    Check out what I thought here:

    • Leeswammes says:

      Yes, you’re right but I didn’t need to go through it all with Jack. He could have done in while we (the reader) were not looking – not the whole thing, but just some of it. Well, I do agree that it’s a good book, for sure. Thanks for the link!

  21. Pingback: Audiobook Review: 11/22/63 « The Indiscriminate Critic

  22. Pingback: Audiobook Review: 11/22/63 | The Indiscriminate Critic

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