Bag of Bones Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1999
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San Diego Union Tribune For those of you who think that Stephen King writes only horror fiction, think again....In Bag Of Bones, King offers readers a rare blend of luminous prose, thought-provoking themes and masterful storytelling.
Amy Tan What I admire most about Bag of Bones is its intelligence of voice, not only the craftsmanship -- the indelible sense of place, the well-fleshed characters, the unstoppable story line -- but the witty and obsessive voice of King's powerful imagination. It places both the ghost story and Stephen King in their proper place on the shelf of literary American fiction.
Entertainment Weekly Bag of Bones is, hands down, King's most narratively subversive fiction. Whenever you're positive -- just positive! -- you know where this ghost story is heading, that's exactly when it gallops off in some jaw-dropping new direction.
Mademoiselle This is King at his clever, terrifying best.
Newsweek Contains some of [King's] best writing...This is King's most romantic book, and ghosts are up and about from the get-go....The big surprise here is the emotional wallop the story packs.
The New York Times Book Review Stephen King is so widely accepted as America's master of paranormal terrors that you can forget his real genius is for the everyday...This is a book about reanimation: the ghosts', of course, but also Mike's, his desire to re-embrace love and work after a long bereavement that King depicts with an eye for the kind of small but moving details that don't typically distinguish blockbuster horror novels.
People magazine Bag of Bones proves that King is as seductive a storyteller as ever, pulling readers along as he explores the hidden evils of small-town America.
Minneapolis Star Tribune King has honed his talent into a unique American voice, broader and more ambitious than most of his peers....[Bag of Bones] has depth....It's a ghost story, a love story, a story about race and power...One more thing: Yes, it's scary. Of course it's scary.
Atlanta Journal & Constitution It may be that after thirty-one novels, Stephen King is just getting started....Bag of Bones may be Stephen King's most ambitious novel ...the effort has inspired a new directness and maturity in his work....Very few writers can convey the passive terrors of nightmares better than King, and he crafts one amazing dream sequence after another.
From the Back Cover
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 here -- and what do they want of Mike Noonan?
It is no secret that King is one of our most mesmerizing storytellers. In BAG OF BONES, he proves to be one of our most moving as well.
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I'm aghast at all the years I knew that this novel existed, and time I wasted in NOT reading it. Sure wish I could happen upon another Stephen King effort that I might like just as much.
By the first 400 pages, I was ready to give the book a 5/5. The protagonist's internal struggle and the nightmares left me thinking of the possibility that everything happening to him is just some sort of extreme delusion, a product of his mental breakdown culminating over the years since his wife's death. It was mysterious. It was nice. Also, the whole relationship between him, the little girl and her mother felt heartwarming more often than not. His lust at nights. His paranoia. And his will to help her against her daddy-in-law in a lawsuit, who practically wants to take the daughter from her mother. There were two well-crafted storylines flowing parallel to one another, with some seeping from one line to the other.
Then comes the very convenient, yet unexplained suicide of the aforementioned daddy-in-law, and thereafter everything goes south. Inconsequentialities start popping up all around the pages, where you start questioning the reasons behind characters' existence, the why's behind events' occurring, and the how's of characters' abilities. The book even dares to break the fourth wall by referencing one of the 'easy-way-outs'. The book quotes Raymond Chandler, “When the story starts going sour, bring on the man with the gun.”, in reference to earlier events in the book. Telling us that you are aware of a few of your 'easy-way-outs', and yet do nothing beforehand to fix them? That's rather smuggy! I would pass on it if it were the only example, but the final 300 pages were littered with such instances.
I gave the book a 3/5, and that is with a stretch. I really enjoyed the first half. Heck, the scare factor as hell was there. I might be ashamed, or proud to admit, but I did have a few rather unpleasant dreams, with the book's content being the theme. So, as a horror book, it did its job well. However, the second half effectively killed it! 3/5 score is giving my respects to the first half... This is my second worst-yet King's book, right after Cell. (These are the only two King books I did not like)
(Overall, I am huge fan of Stephen King, so this book hurt me... :()
Now, this is of no fault to the narrator himself. I am a sufferer of a condition called Misophonia, where certain sounds can trigger certain reactions and makes listening to things very difficult. This narrator has a quirk where he makes a gulping sound as he reads. It made listening to this audble extremely difficult. In fact, I only made through the first chapter and had to put it down. I was deeply saddened because I really wanted to listen to this one so badly. But his gulping on certain sounds made it impossible. If you can get passed that, I'm sure it's a great buy. I simply couldn't
Top international reviews
The first time was during summer, 15 years ago. I was totally absorbed by the book.
The characters, the location everything was so new to me and I remembered enjoying every moment of my reading, so a month ago I decided to re read it but in English this time (I read it in French the first time).
I must admit I had forgotten the story so it was like ready it for the first time and I loved it as much, maybe even more since I am now older, there is things I can understand better.
You get attached to the characters, you hope thinfs are not what they are and you want everyone to be happy, but life catch up with us and we have to face the fact that life is hard, things don't always go the way we want them to. This book is also a great reminder of what is important to us, sometimes it's good to pause and see what really matters.
It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either.
Disclaimer: I don't believe in ghosts, so a book has to be pretty good to get me to suspend my disbelief.
I have a prejudice against books where the main character is a writer - it just seems a bit too Marty Stu for my liking - and this book did go on a bit towards the beginning about the mechanics of publishing. I thought we could have done without some of the conversations with the agent, who didn't turn out to play any part in the story.
Having said that, I enjoyed the story when it finally got underway and picked up a bit more pace, and I developed some sympathy for the main character, Mike Noonan.
My main criticism is that I felt the tying up of the two plots - the custody battle and the Sara haunting - was confusing and unconvincing. I struggled to follow and to understand all the detail towards the end. Timescales and generations seemed to play quite a key role but I found I couldn't grasp them or hold them in my head easily (e.g. who is who's great-grandad, what their relationship with another character is now and how that links with the other character's ancestor back then).
The ghosts I also found unconvincing. Why go to all the effort of making someone write a 120-page manuscript and then point them to a really obscure clue hidden within it by means of an even more obscure crossword-clue-like fridge magnet puzzle? Why not just write 'owls under studio' on the fridge in the first place?
The whole fridge magnets thing I thought was hugely cliched but I could have overlooked it if it had been more convincingly written. I don't feel there was any real need for Mike to see the magnets moving.
The connection between the subplots was tenuous, and characters' motivations were poorly explained in a rushed way at the end. Also, the minor characters weren't fleshed out well during the course of the book so at the denouement it was hard to care about them or find them credible as 'baddies'.
All that aside, it was 'a rip roaring yarn' that I'd enjoy on a plane or on the beach.
Mike Noonan, writer of novels, finds himself suffering writers block after the death of his wife and some shock revelations about that life. Eventually coming to the conclusion that a change of scene is required he heads off to "Sara Laughs" - the family summer home situated on the TR. There he gets entangled with Mattie Devore, her 3 year old daughter Kyra, and the evil Billionaire Max Devore who is bound and determined to take Kyra away from her mother. Whilst trying to help Mattie, Mike comes to realise that he is not alone at Sara Laughs....and by delving into her history he unearths a terrible secret that will put both his and Kyra's life on the line.
Slowly, inexorably, this book will haunt your thoughts. The characters are wonderful but they are not all people. Sara Laughs herself is a major player as is the setting, the so called TR. Even nature comes to life here - and all of us "Constant Readers" know that Mr King's strength is taking the everyday, the mundane and turning it into something that will keep you up at nights. I stand by my firm held belief that what Stephen King writes is mostly NOT horror. Oh no. After all, we all have those moments - the ones where you take the sound of the wind whistling through the pipes and turn it into the monster under your bed. But you wouldnt say you were living a horror story...
I'm becoming more convinced that Stephen King is a unique voice in the world of fiction. One we havent seen before and won't see again. As a popular novelist he has been compared to Charles Dickens, THE popular novelist of his time. For those of us who are simply readers searching out a terrific tale to take ourselves out of our own world for a while Stephen King will do that every time. Literary awards are one thing. REAL value from a story is quite another. Next for me is 11.22.63 - a novel I first read last year. Yes perhaps I should go older first. But Bag of Bones has made me want to read another King novel that I know pulls on my heartstrings. Keep an eye out - I'll tell you about that one soon.
This is a ghost story, on one level, and a story of compassion and courage on another. It is only towards the end that the reader learns of the violent act that sets the ghostly goings-on - and the desperate actions of the guilty - in motion. It is also a story that explores with sensitivity the variety of effects of grief, and in this sense it bears some similarity with Lisey's Story, written eight years later. The extraordinary power of love within a marriage is given voice here, as it is in the later story.
The prime character is Mike Noonan, a successful romance author whose wife dies tragically & while in the early stages of a pregnancy she never told him about. This leads to Noonan developing writers block, & subsequently to visit the summer house he & his wife purchased soon after his work began to earn rewards & not long after, meeting a young mother & child in a custody battle with a computer mogul.
King's less conventional works are often difficult to place in a specific genre, with strong elements of horror, romance, crime drama & comedy all present here in fairly equal measure, with King penning a fantastic, well developed protagonist in Noonan, strong, equally well developed supporting characters & a story that flows beautifully at a steady, enjoyable pace, & yet contains the masses of detail that King is known for.
For me, this has all the elements that displays all the skills that makes Stephen King one of the true masters of modern literature. The fact it is a very readable book despite being written in first person is a testament to this fact. He even has the confidence to mention other major writers such as Tom Clancy, a decision I think will have required an amount of courage.
This remains one of my absolute favourite books, even after years of ownership & many, many reads. It always has the power to draw the reader right into the middle of the story & make the hairs stand up.
I read the first half of the book on a flight back from Japan and it kept me entertained for the whole flight. I did not watch a single film. The book is sprawling in a good way with different plot layers. It is as much about the craft of writing and the process of loss and grief as it is about ghosts and horror. As always there are some memorable characters and some genuinely spooky and shocking moments. I am also pleased to report that the ending is almost satisfying. Stephen King is not great at endings but I think Bag of Bones gives an insight into why that might be. I think King loves the writing process (and no doubt also hates it in a strange way too) so much that sometimes it is hard to finish that process and get out of the zone! But that's just me speculating.
I have read seven of King's novels so far and I would rank this one the weakest. This isn't to say BOB was a terrible piece of fiction - it's quite lively compared when compared with some of the mundane stuff I've read - but to say that it was disappointing on a few fronts. Some will probably disagree here, but I found the death of one particular character less than two thirds of the way through (who shall remain anonymous) to be much too early and somewhat of an anti-climax for the story. Had he/she survived I feel to second half of the book would have been far more gripping; I believe there was at least a hundred pages or more where there was barely any suspense present. What we got instead hear was an unnecessary history lesson of racial conflict in early 20th century United States of America. There's nothing wrong with a little history in a story, but it went on here for too long, becoming almost patronising.
There is a strong supernatural element to Bag of Bones. At times this was done very well such as with Michael's holiday home but on other occasions I felt confused as to whether it was the protagonist's imagination or a real, inexplicable event. The ending of the novel is satisfying and the final epilogue chapter is really informative in answering many of the outstanding questions you might have.
Nice to be spared the gruesome and the graphic and in its place have the sort of psychiatrist and patient on couch approach but the book would have dragged less if it had not tried to do the couch analysis over so many pages.