Author: Stephen King
Pages: Paperback 445
Purchase: Gerald's Game (Signet)
Opening Lines: "Jessie could hear the backdoor banging lightly, randomly, in the October breeze blowing around the house. The jamb always swelled in the fall and you really had to give the door a yank to shut it."
"Jessie Burlingame, 39, is getting plenty tired of being handcuffed to the bed of her Maine summerhouse by her attorney- husband, Gerald, so that he can play his silly sex games. So when Gerald refuses to uncuff her, she kicks him in the family jewels, accidentally smashing them to kingdom come--and the terror begins. Each hand cuffed to a bedpost, the keys out of reach, Jessie howls for help--and is answered by a feral dog that proceeds to chow down on Gerald's face in lavishly described, muscle-shredding detail. As the long hours pass, cramps bite like iron jaws into Jessie's own flesh; but they're nothing compared to the thirst raging through her. Can she somehow reach the glass of water on the shelf above her head? It takes the most tightly controlled writing King's ever done to find out, but soon even the thirst pales beside the guilt- gargoyles that Jessie's mind begins to throw up, all pointing at the sun-eclipsed day so long ago when she became much more to Daddy than just his little girl. The minutes tick by, each an agony--and King's just warming up. Night falls: What's that shadow in the corner? The one with the smirking face of Death? And how can Jessie, growing into a heartbreakingly brave heroine, escape? She tugs and tugs at her wrists but can't slip them past the cuffs. Is there a hot, sticky lubricant at hand?"
Thoughts: After realizing that the next Heather Graham book I had sitting on my shelf was the seventh in a series and couldn't find the first at the local bookstore, I decided to finally dive into my King reading month. My brother and dad had started reading his books again, and all of their discussions were making my long to take a trip back into his twisted, real-life world. I had originally planned on making a big announcement about my Stephen King month; however, things just didn't work out the way I had planned it.
During one of my long talks with my dad, he told me about Gerald's Game. It was his favorite Stephen King book. After telling me about the story, I admit that I was quite intrigued by the concept. Hearing sorties about couples experimenting in bondage, I always wondered what happened when something went wrong. Well, this Stephen King definitely goes into the maddening detail of being handcuffed to a bed with only your spouses corpse, a stray dog, your thoughts, and an unknown visitor for company.
Struggling to reignite their dwindling sexual relationship, Jessie and her husband decide to take a day trip to their cabin by the lake. What first seems like a fun get-away turns into a nightmare when Gerald refuses to remove the cuffs, tries to force himself on Jessie, and suffers a heart attack after she kicks him when she realizes her husband means to rape her. And by no means is the the end!
This book is extremely hard to describe without telling the whole story. Jessie struggles with a past that she has been unwilling to come to terms with. Even though she is chained to a bed in a remote location, wearing only panties, and watching a dog eat her husband, her primary thoughts are concerned with an incident that happened when she was 10. One of the voices—that of her college roommate, Ruth—dare to her probe the memory that she continues to run away from. It is through this trip down memory lane that enables Jessie to find the keys to her freedom. It also helps her fully recognize all of the voices floating through her head.
I felt that this book had a massive amount of character development. Honestly, being the only true character in the book, there was no way the ploy could progress if Jessie refused to grow and change. At the beginning of the book, she seems like the typical rich lawyer's life: Somewhat vapid and seemingly full of herself. She doesn't have any close friends, and seems to prefer her own company. Through this experience, Jessie learns who she really is while struggling to stay alive. The constant chatter of voices in her head also help her discover this. Since most of the book is in Jessie's head, the reader has a close relationship with the character. It is easy to get pulled into her struggles and victories.
While the setting is important to the book, I felt it didn't play as much of a role in the book as might be expected. I felt that the atmosphere in Jessie's head was far more important than the master bedroom in the cabin. Further, the play of light and shadows and time of day were also important. How the shadows were able to encase her nightly visitor and the recurring fear of his return, to me, were a big deal. And, without a clock to tell time, the light moving across the floor was her only way to guess at the length of time she was in the house.
I liked how King played with her the Space Cowboy. At first, along with Jessie, it was extremely hard to tell how much of his appearance was a conjured image from her mind. With the constant chatter of the voices and Jessie talking to herself, it was entirely probable that Jessie had truly lost her mind. However, she had several moments of clear thinking, and some of her voices tended to have a clear, level head.
It is hard to explain much about a Stephen King novel. The most frightening things are the little quirks or changes to the norm. To me, the building of those little things are far more frightening than any horror movie. Further, he has a way of getting into his readers' minds and fully realizing their inner most fears. In his world, they are real and they are intensely personal. That makes his books have an extremely unique quality.
King never shies away from anything. He is nothing if not thorough. The descriptions of Gerald and the former Prince were quite grizzly and stomach turning. At places, especially when Jessie was facing her past, it was very hard to read.
I have never read a book like this. I honestly am unsure how I would respond if I were in the same situation. The fact that Jessie was able to keep a level head on her shoulders was amazing, especially face with the things that lurked just beyond her sight. It was an amazing, page-turning read. If you like Stephen King, I would suggest this book. However, if you have an over-active imagination, do not read this at night! You will find yourself looking into the dark corners of your bedroom, wondering whether a creature with abnormally long arms is standing there with a wicker case. And, scariest of all, you may find it isn't your imagination . . .
Currently: Bag of Bones by Stephen King
Current Pages: 8145