11/22/63 by Stephen King is a novel about Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, who travels back in time to try to save President John F. Kennedy’s life. He meets his friend Al Templeton who tells him that he has discovered a way to go back in time. However, Al is dying, and he entrusts Jake to fulfill his life mission to save President Kennedy, thinking that the world would be much better off had Kennedy survived. Jake is apprehensive but takes on Al’s mission and travels back into 1958. Jake bides his time for three years, slowly making his way to Dallas to stop the assassination. Unfortunately, time also moves on sluggishly for the reader, and it is quite difficult to not put the book aside because it drags on and on. The gist of 1000 pages is Jake bets a lot of money to sustain himself, stalks Oswald for a year, and falls in love with Sadie, a librarian in the school he teaches. It does not feel like a novel, but it feels like a biography of the fictional Jake Epping. Despite all this, the book picks up towards the end. Overall, I enjoyed this book only because of how it ended, but the casual reader might not enjoy it.
Glory O’Brien is about to graduate from high school but her future remains uncertain despite her apparent talents and a supportive single father. Glory remains haunted by the suicide of her artistic and even more talented mother fourteen years previous. Confident in her tendency to eschew the passing trends celebrated by teens around her, Gloria is nonetheless crippled by the fear that she harbors some unidentified trait that will lead her down the un-understandable path her mother traveled long ago. In a bizarre twist, Glory acquires the ability to see people’s futures and a terrifying dystopia, in which girls and women are reduced to less than chattel, reveals itself in sudden flashes as she encounters friends and strangers. By accident of circumstance, Glory not only needs to reconcile her identity and future, but ward off the impending devolution of society.
The beauty of King’s story is the character of Glory — a fully realized personality that subtly draws the reader into what at first seems a compelling coming-of-age story. Indeed, the much more frightening threat of societal dissolution is beautifully cloaked in the power of Glory’s story. Glory is a character drawn of perfectly believable contradictions: she simultaneously exudes self confidence and self questioning. She is both determined and terrified. Little does she know that the mystery of her personal circumstances may unlock more than her own salvation.
King’s is not a fantastic tale. Beyond the convention of the future visions, the existing discomfort in Glory’s life, the misogynistic forebodings and the novel’s satisfying ending are grounded in reality. Readers who enjoyed Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower and Lockhart’s We Were Liars, as well as King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz will be thoroughly pleased with Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. – Mrs. Vaughan, Harker librarian