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Book Review: Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

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Lisey’s Story – who would have expected this tale to come from the word processor of Stephen King? King of the boogies and master of the bi-yearly fright fest? I recall him saying once in an interview that he was the ‘fast food of fiction’. He certainly has been that.

With Lisey’s Story however, we have a novel which hints at a section of King's mind that isn’t all gobbledy-gooks chasing kids, mad dogs and monstrous motorcars. This story seems to move away from those things. Almost.

Yes, there’s the weird words, the invented slang, things like bools and bad gunky, as well as the baby-talk terms that can get a bit tiresome in the beginning, but after a few hours they quickly become a part of your thought processes too. There’s the New England colloquial expressions of course; that has always been a part of the King novel du jour, but these are suited to our heroine now, since she resides in Castle County, Maine.

This time around, King has dared to drop his own preoccupation of past tales and set out on a literary composition of Lisey’s preoccupation of her own past. This is a multidimensional story of grief and love, of a woman surviving fame and dysfunctional families. As I read on, I felt I was peeling the layers away from a colorful onion and finding another story of a different color beneath the preceding ones, stories both mesmerizing and honest. Perhaps even King's most honest book to date.

Lisey’s Story is the story of Lisa Debusher Landon, 50-year-old widow of National Book award and Pulitzer prize-winning author Scott Landon, who, while clearing out her dead husband's writings from his work space two years after his death finds herself understanding for the very first time who he really was. He has left clues behind for her to discover. Clues about a ‘place’ called Boo’ya Moon, a lavender-scented parallel world of sorts. She learns this is the place Scott and his brother escaped to while growing up with their monstrous father in rural Pennsylvania. A place where Scott eventually takes his brother to – a brother driven to catatonia and worse.

While applying herself to this arduous sorting chore, however, Lisey is threatened by a strange man, the evil Zack McCool, aka John Dooley, who wants all Scott's unpublished papers. So after stealing her sister Amanda out of an asylum, she and Amanda whisk Dooley away to Boo'ya Moon, where the justice of that land is meted out by a creature that haunted Scott his entire life.

Boo’ya Moon could very well begin a new series of books, so complex and interesting a place this is. Moving behind the purple curtain and into the place where Long Boy lives and evil laughers make sunset dangerous. The place of the word pool, that pool which supplies poets and authors with the ways of expressing themselves – where we all go down to cast our nets and fish. Magically, mysteriously, it also heals both mentally and physically.

Though she spent most of her life lost behind her husband's fame, Lisey was the sort of person who holds the planet steady on it’s axis, so to speak. You share in the warmly candid relationship she has with her four sisters, Amanda, Darla, Cantina, and Jodotha, something that anyone with sisters will relate to.

I think you have to love Lisey. She is understated but to the point. Quietly sarcastic and wonderfully decent, dependable and unpretentious, she is the last person we think of when thinking heroism, yet in every respect she is.

I especially love when Lisey recalls a part of Scott's proposal to her. “I come to you and you see me whole,” Scott told Lisey when he proposed marriage in 1979. That moment is as alive for her when she remembers it as it was all those years back. “You love me all the way around the equator and not just for some story I wrote. When your door closes and the world’s outside, we’re eye to eye.” While that might not have been true when Scott said them, it surely was at the end of this novel.

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  • Katie McNeill

    I’ve got this one in my TBR pile but haven’t found the time yet. I’m dying to get started on it now after reading your review! :)