Monday, August 6, 2007

Lisey's Story: Dewey's review

Cross-posted at my blog.

Title, author, and date of book? Lisey's Story, Stephen King, 2006

Genre: fiction, nonfiction, memoir, history, etc.? Fiction. King generally writes horror, and there are aspects of that in this book, as well as thriller and fantasy.

What made you want to read it? Did it live up to your expectations? I generally read everything new that King publishes. No, it didn't really live up to my expectations. Since this was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book, I expected it to be one of the best King novels. It's about average on my personal spectrum of King novels.

Summarize the book without giving away the ending. The main character, Lisey, is the widow of a famous writer. She's grieving as well as trying to process some of what she knows about her husband and his past, and trying to deal with an ill sister, and trying to deal with a deranged stalker.

What did you think of the main character? I thought she was very strong; she's one those quiet women you may not notice, but if you get to know them, you realize they're intelligent and strong as hell.

Which character could you relate to best, and why? I didn't relate to any of the characters. The main character, Lisey, has 20 million dollars, a dead husband and several sisters. She's the youngest in her family and she's never had a career. The only thing I really have in common with her is that I know what it's like to travel so much that it's not even fun any more. Her sister, Amanda, is catatonic through most of the novel, so it's hard to identify with her. I certainly don't identify with a male Pulitzer/NBA winning novelist. And most of all, I don't identify with a deranged, violent stalker.

Were there any other especially interesting characters? The dead writer has a father and brother that we meet through flashbacks to his childhood. They were some of the most interesting characters, for me.

Did you think the characters and their problems were believable? Well, no. But I don't think I'm meant to. There is another world that the characters visit in a vaguely Narnia-like way. Those who can visit that world have amazing healing powers.

From whose point of view is the story told? Lisey's.

Was location important to the story? There are a lot of references to King's fictional places in Maine. For details on those connections, click here.

Was the time period important to the story? It seemed more like current technology interfered with the story. For example, in order to make some of the isolation Lisey experiences more plausible, she had to be completely clueless about her own cell phone.

Was the story told chronologically? Was there foreshadowing? No, it wasn't told chronologically. There were a lot of flashbacks, both to the time that Scott (Lisey's husband) was alive and to Scott's and Lisey's childhoods. Yes, there was some foreshadowing.

Did you think the story was funny, sad, touching, disturbing, moving? It wasn't as sad and disturbing as it was probably meant to be. I think a stronger sense of grief was required from Lisey, whereas there was really more a problem-solving air about her.

What did you like most about the book? As always, I enjoyed King's wordplay.

What did you like least? The disgusting scenes featuring the violent stalker. But I think they were meant to be that disgusting.

Share a quote from the book. A "long boy" is a sort of monster from the alternate world the characters travel to.

Her own fear is so great it's incapacitating, and any sense of exhilaration at having him back is gone. Has he lived with this all his life? If so, how has he lived with it? But even now, in the extremity of her terror, she supposes she knows. Two things have tied him to the earth and saved him from the long boy. His writing is one. The other has a waist he an put his arms around and an ear into which he can whisper.

Share a favorite scene from the book. I have two favorite scenes.

In the first, Lisey and Scott are spending a winter in Germany. King did a wonderful job evoking the sense of despair and desperate homesickness the two experienced. I also like how this scene captured the way in which the mental anguish of one person in a couple can be contagious for the other.

I also enjoyed the flashbacks to Scott's childhood. King has a gift for characterization, particularly with child characters. The events of Scott's childhood are so horrific, but so real in spite of their basic unreality, that I had to wonder if King himself had lived with a mentally ill parent.

What about the ending? To be honest, this book really bogged down in the last 1/3 or so. I got to the point where I just wanted to finish. The end contains some writing of Scott's that Lisey found, which gives her a sort of closure. I'm not sure I believe there is such a thing as closure on losing someone you have lived with and loved for 25 years. But Lisey comes as close as she could probably hope for.

What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book? I think my lasting impression will be "one of the Stephen King books with a female main character." Not one that stands out.

Thanks to Bonnie for her version of the book review questionnaire.

Here's an interview with King about this book, though they don't get to discussing this book in particular until halfway through the four minutes. The playful humor you find in King's books is apparent also in this interivew.

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