Revival by Stephen King
Also by this author: Joyland
Published by Simon and Schuster on November 11, 2014
A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town. Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings. This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Revival by Stephen King starts out strong. I was quickly pulled into the life of Jamie Morton, a young boy with a bucket of toy soldiers. I love the nostalgic feeling that is built here. King does a wondrous job of not just telling you the story, but making you feel you are there, like you are somehow taken back in time and plopped down in this small town in Maine in a time period that was before I was alive. I felt like this for the first half of the book as we follow Jamie as he grows up, has his first crush, falls in love, joins a band and goes on the road. I was drawn into the character.
As for plot, when the story starts, there is a young preacher, Charles Jacobs, that has come to town. He is what Jamie calls “the fifth business” or a change agent, a joker so to speak. Someone who randomly appears through out the course of his life. And the course of his life is changed because of it. At first he seems a friendly preacher, with a beautiful wife and young son. But he likes to tinker. When Jamie’s brother suffers an accident that the doctors were unable to heal, a visit to the preacher, who uses his “special electricity” set him right. Jacobs claims it was the placebo effect, he didn’t really do anything to help Conrad. The truth is left open in the beginning, leaving the question was it real? Could Preacher Jacobs actually heal what the doctor could not?
Life, death, aging, faith and religion are all heavily addressed in this book. Even the fanatical patriotism that can be found in America is described as a those who worship America as fervently as Germans did Hitler in Nazi Germany. Either you get this statement or not, but I was quite taken by it because to me, there is a validity there. There is a blindness in some people as they so devoutly follow without questioning. I never thought of it as being similar to religion before, but I quite liked the comparison. This is not to say that anyone that is a patriotic American falls into this, that would be like saying all Muslims are terrorists, which is absolutely absurd. The outlying exceptions don’t make the rule. There are extremists on both sides. Sad, but true. Anyway, I feel I am veering a bit, but I do like that this book made me think a bit about such things.
Unfortunately, the second half of the book just didn’t work quite as well for me. Whatever it was that sucked me in the first half just sort of fizzled out once Jamie got to adulthood. I can’t say for sure what it was lacking, but my waning interest made me wish the second half had been condensed. So much of the super-natural aspect of this was kept until the very end. I also think if there was more of that earlier it could have gone better. I think when it comes down to it, I enjoyed the coming of age bit (about the first half of the book) and the super natural part at the end (the last dozen or so pages). But the parts in between there, while not bad, were not nearly as good. At least not for me.
The three true ages of man are youth, middle age, and how the fuck did I get old so soon?
King, Stephen (2014-11-11). Revival: A Novel (p. 279). Scribner. Kindle Edition.
I’m not sure I would call the end of this book “terrifying” as it says in the blurb. But it is dark as hell. Like, really, really dark. Screw sunshine, rainbows, fuzzy puppies and even dreary days (which are not near dark enough). I wanted to like this book more than I ultimately did. There were parts of it that I loved, which makes it harder, but ultimately, I am on the fence because for too long I just didn’t feel like it was going anywhere or maybe I didn’t care where it was going. Either way, not as good as I hoped. But, because of the parts I really enjoyed, I am still glad I read it.