I usually put in my reviews some explanation for why I selected a book. I think/hope it helps folks who are reading the review know if I'm coming from the same place they are -- if I have the same hopes or expectations. There are times when it feels ridiculous to give that explanation. I selected this book because it's written by Stephen King, and while I haven't loved every word and some books have gone unfinished, he's still a darned good bet, isn't he? I think few people don't have some pivotal and lasting memories of either his books or movies made from his books, and my memories span my childhood into middle age, and involve people who are now gone. I also love both short stories and novellas and when I look back at my favorite Stephen King stories, these are well-represented. So, I bought the book and it freaked me out.
The afterword begins: The stories in this book are harsh. You may have found them hard to read in places. If so, be assured that I found them equally hard to write in places.
I thought, thank God. I did find these stories to be hard to read, intense, uncomfortable, heebie-jeebie creating. I was a little concerned that like my newly discovered acid reflux when in the presence of spicy food, my disinterest in roller coasters, and my increased habit of watching scary movies through my fingers, that this was just another sign of getting older. Good to know this stuff was really as intense as I thought.
1922: A man kills his wife over land and that's just the beginning and a fraction of the horrors in this tale. It reminded me a little of A Thousand Acres: A Novel
, complete with lots of stuff Shakespeare would be down with -- only different. The murder of the wife is brutal and vividly portrayed, but what happens next is something that the main character Wilf couldn't even begin to imagine, except for the parts he may or may not have imagined. As another Stephen King character once said, sometimes the soil of a man's heart is stonier.
Big Driver: This was a pretty tough read for me in parts. Since a man wrote it, it would be uncharitable to say that the feelings it evoked are a "girl thing," but I do think that part of its effectiveness was being able to put myself in the main character's shoes, especially while she is walking after being assaulted, only keeping enough distance to berate her over certain decisions, but more about that later. The horror here is grounded in the plausible, even if toward the end it goes to a more fantastical place where justice is served in a rather "Rose Madder" way. I don't begrudge Mr. King this story, it was compelling, but Tess's option is not how it works in the real world, fortunately or unfortunately.
Fair Extension: Interestingly enough, I've been reading an anthology called Sympathy for the Devil
which contains stories about -- guess. It contains Stephen King's The Man in The Black Suit, for that matter. This story would have fit right in, and would have been a really welcome substitution in many cases. The stories about deals with the devils and fiddles against your soul never get old, because they're about temptation about the darker sides of who we are. They ask the questions, what would you do in that situation, really? For me, this story is about how you can choose to not give up your soul and still give up your soul, how some decisions are a case of six of one, half dozen of another.
A Perfect Marriage: I wonder if Mr. King deliberately went boy-girl-boy-girl on the arrangement of these stories. Like Tess in Big Driver, Darcy finds herself in the middle of the trauma of a lifetime. Interestingly enough, like Tess, she also decides what to do or what not to do based on "what would the neighbors think?" I wonder if that's a coincidence. I think Tess and Darcy would understand each other just fine. Looking over all the stories, I think this is the one that satisfied me the most from start to finish. Any way I can think of to elaborate on that is a spoiler. Almost anyone who has been married a while will understand where Darcy is at in her marriage right before it all comes crashing down.
There was a story called Button, Button by Richard Matheson "back in the day" which was made into a Twilight Zone (the eighties incarnation of TZ) with a different ending. It was also the inspiration for the wildly divergent Cameron Diaz movie, The Box. The short story -- and if you're going to ever read it, stop reading THIS now -- ends with the line "Did you really think you knew your husband?" Darcy can relate and good question -- does any human being know another human being? After reading Perfect Marriage I made it clear to my husband I was on the look-out for secret cubby holes.
Bottom line, loved this, loved all the stories, best King I've read since -- wait, does Joe Hill count? -- I don't know when. The stories will stick with me and join the other King stories and memories. I know there's a battle over price right now. I don't rate books on price, because I figure you can see that for yourself and I want to tell you something you don't already know. I respect that others do feel that some ebooks are over-priced and I agree that we all have to make decisions on what we will and will not pay. I felt this was worth the price, which could be entirely different by the time you read this, and think this is some really impressive work whether you shell out the cash now, wait for the price to lower, or visit your library.