Friday, December 5, 2014

Lisey's Story by Stephen King

The grin on his face was still there but it was getting smaller, fading until it was little more than a quirk and one shallow dimple. Water, meanwhile, had risen in his eyes. The lost scared voice tried to call its warning again and she ignored it. This was a cutting party now. [...] Standing in the kitchen door and waiting for him to come back, she can't remember all the things she said, only that each one was a little worse, a little more perfectly tailored to hurt. [...] The silence was enormous and she realized she wanted to go back and had no idea how to do it. The simplest thing--I love you anyway, Scott, come to bed--will not occur to her until later.  Not until after the bool.

It's been over a decade since I actively gorged on King, and when I recently read Under the Dome I was reminded of what a great storyteller he is.

Lisey's Story story may not be among my favorites when it comes to style, but it brought back how visceral reading King can get: there's an unknown, fantastical evil lurking in the corners--either a crazed madman or our own, appalling behavior--eluding our eyes, overwhelming the reader with discomfort equivalent to wearing terry cloth clothes that are a size too small. Seriously. He's amazing with making you feel uncomfortable.

But Lisey's Story does not just make you shift in your seat, nor is it just fantasy, or horror. It doesn't feel too far-fetched to read as a manual to understanding a loved one's mental illness. Although in the novel all the crazy stuff is actually real, it's an excellent display of  how crazy stuff feels that real to the person experiencing it. The more Lisey begins to use words that his late husband had concocted, the crazier she now sounds--and suddenly she and her husband are both in the reader's head, and there I am, thinking their crazy thoughts and understanding their made-up words.

Beyond that, Lisey's Story digs into the importance of memories, even when we do our best to suppress the really bad ones because hey, those are memories about events that made us who we are. When the dead speak to us, there are no ghosts hovering around; they speak to us with words we may have wanted to shut out in the past, but now we are ready to listen.

Although Lisey's Story may at first glance appear a thriller where a widow tries to shake a crazed fan off her tail, it really is more about the complexity of love, and what you may need to endure through sickness and in health.