Lisey’s Story

I heartily acknowledge that I am a Stephen King fan-girl. No, I haven’t read the Dark Tower series (I tried about 15 years ago, at the encouragement of my father–also a King fan–but just.couldn’t.do.it. I promise to try again sometime soon), but I have read about 97% of his other works.

My favorite King books are his short story collections, but of his novels The Shining and  The Dead Zone are my favorites. I’m the child of a recovered alcoholic, so The Shining hits home on a lot of levels–and terrifies me for more than the haunted house (er, hotel) aspect. My heart aches for Jack Torrance through that entire damn novel. The Dead Zone is just beautifully written, and appeals to me on a more emotional level than King’s scary-paranormal stories. Again, my heart aches for Johnny Smith the whole time.

So I just re-read Lisey’s Story, and while I don’t think it’s up there with my favorites, I think it’s pretty damn close.

Brief Overview: the story focuses on Lisa (Lisey) Landon, widow of best selling author Scott Landon, who is dealing with family issues and a (for lack of better word) stalker. Oh, and she’s remembering things about her husband that would drive a normal person absolutely bonkers (here there be no spoilers, so go read the damn book).

The story is interesting, and showcases King’s patented jump-writing (you know, that thing where he jumps from one thought in the middle of a sentence–or word!–to another thought/scene/POV/time. Shades of Faulker, much?) as Lisey relates current events to event of her (and Scott’s) past. But what I like the most about Lisey’s Story is the unapologetic love story that it tells. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become both more cynical and more romantic; for part of that I blame my partner, but I also think about the relationship that my parents had. They loved each other fiercely, and had their own secret life, but it wasn’t easy. Throughout Lisey’s Story, you are exposed to the inner-workings of a marriage, from courtship to one partner passing away, and while it’s pointed out that it’s fun and worth everything, it’s still scary no matter how much love there is. Everyone goes into relationships with baggage; you have to find the person who can help keep you “strapped” through the hard times. Of course, most people aren’t toting around Scott Landon’s baggage.

In as much as this is a love letter to King’s wife, Tabby, it’s also a love letter to King’s mistress, language. Yeah, Scott Landon is a novelist (what, Stephen King making a main character an author?! SHOCK!), so he deals with words, but he and Lisey have a language all their own–and don’t most couple’s have a way of speaking that others don’t totally understand? There’s much discussion of the “word-pool” and Lisey constantly speaks using various metaphors for the same thing because of Scott’s (and King’s) obsession with the word pool.

The biggest complaint I’ve seen in other reviews about the novel, apart from “but there are no monsters!” (which really isn’t true… you just have to look a little harder), is that the “silly” language in the novel is distracting or confusing. I differ on that; I think the “silly” language is humanizing. When Scott says “smuck” instead of dropping the eff-bomb because that was something his father said, it reminds me of certain things in my patois from my childhood that have persisted and are now part of my relationship with my partner. Those are the things that shape who we are, and King knows how much language means to us.

Overall, I’d have to say Lisey’s Story, while not one of my favorites, is one of King’s best presentations of love, relationship dynamics (not just Lisey and Scott…there’s also what King calls “the sister thing” that he portrays well), and the importance of language. It’s not without it’s flaws, but it’s a pretty compelling read.

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