Author: Stephen King
Pages: Paperback 732
Purchase: Stephen King: Bag of Bones
Opening Lines: "On a very hot day in August 1994, my wife told me she was going down to the Derry Rite Aid to pick up a refill on her sinus medicine prescription—this is the stuff you can buy over the counter these days, I believe."
"Four years after the sudden death of his wife, forty-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan is still grieving. Unable to write, and plagued by vivid nightmares set at the western Maine summerhouse he calls Sara Laughs, Mike reluctantly returns to the lakeside getaway. There, he finds his beloved Yankee town held in the grip of a powerful millionaire, Max Devore, whose vindictive purpose is to take his three-year-old granddaughter, Kyra, away from her widowed young mother, Mattie. As Mike is drawn into Mattie and Kyra's struggle, as he falls in love with both of them, he is also drawn into the mystery of Sara Laughs, now the site of ghostly visitations and escalating terrors. What are the forces that have been unleashed there—and what do they want with Mike Noonan?
~ Jacket copy
Thoughts: I originally saw the TV mini-series before venturing into this book. Like any other King novel, the story is dense, the characters are rich, and the setting is highly important. With most of his novels, I find myself at a loss trying to explain this one. There are several different stories happening in the novel; however, they all end up connecting at the end. And they are all greatly tied to the past.
At the beginning of the novel, Mike is struggling with the death of his wife, Jo. While making it onto the top 10 bestseller list several times, his fiction has never been a HUGE seller. He makes enough money for the couple of live comfortably in Derry and own a beautiful lakeside house on the TR-90. So, after his wife's death, he finds himself struggling with writer's block. Not wanting to risk his sales falling, his agent pesters him constantly about writing another novel. Mike candidly tells the audience that some authors tend to save up "nuts" for the winter—the dry season. Sitting in a safety deposit box, he has four previously written novels. And, honestly, I have to wonder whether Bag of Bones was one such novel for King. It lacks the special-something that makes them of of his books.
He spends a lot of time analyzing Mike's writer's block and pissing away four years of his life. Honestly, I think over the first 100 pages is just following him around in his daze and his fascination with crossword puzzles. Aside from learning about his saved "nuts" and the writer's block, I'm not sure there is too much worthwhile in the beginning of the book. To me, the most important things were Jo's death, the discovery made upon her death, the writer's block, and the reoccurring dreams of Sara Laughs. Which could have easily been cut in half.
Once Mike finally ends up back on the TR-90, he spends tons of time trying to track down Jo's every move before she died in a sick fantasy that she was cheating on him. During this time, he runs into Kyra and Mattie Devore. After which, he spends his time trying to cancel out thoughts of his growing lust for Mattie with his newly found writing ability. During this time, he also discovers that there are strange things happening throughout Sara Laughs and with the TR-90. And some of them revolve around Jo.
From things said by the caretaker of Sara Laughs, Jo was writing some sort of local history. He is extremely curious about this and decides it will have some clue as to the ghostly occurrences in the house. However, even though he is obsessed with finding these documents, he never looks for them! He has a strong feeling that they are in her studio—where he previously found his old typewriter—but he never ventures back in to search for these documents. When he learns from he brother that she truly did know what was happening, he still does not take the time to find them. This seemed rather weird to me. Also, the amount of time he spent worrying about the owls never turned into anything. If he is concerned about them and the caretaker tells him to locate them, why does he just sit on his thumbs and do nothing?
On top of all this, the book just took too long. He didn't figure out what was happening until 20-40 pages from the end. It was frustrating to read 732 pages of a book that could have been half of that.
All of this aside, however, I generally enjoyed the book. The back story was very interesting, and I loved the characters of Mattie and Kyra. King did a wonderful job filling out their relationship and showing the love between mother and daughter. Further, the setting was brilliant! If you have ever read any of his books, you know that the setting is always important. During the storm at the end of the book, I found myself constantly fearing that our 55+ mph winds would end up in a nasty storm. It is simply amazing how he is able to make such benign things—weather, towns, etc.—into fully developed characters.
As far as his books go, this one was not my favorite. It did not live up to my expectations. While it was entertaining, I felt I really missed out on the King-experience I was desiring.
Currently: The Demon of Renaissance Drive by Elizabeth Reuter
Current Pages: 8877