I am almost too ashamed to say that this is my first ever Stephen King novel, and what a novel it is! I guess that I have been reading too many debut novels lately, because it was so refreshing to read a book by a seasoned and accomplished author. The writing in this novel is so well-crafted that I didn't find time to try to guess what would happen next because I was so intrigued from start to finish.
This is a story about a man named Jake Epping and George Amberson, who are the same person, only one lives in 2011 and the other lives in 1958. Jake was invited to the local diner by the owner, Al, who suddenly looks like he has aged many years over night and is suddenly on the brink of death, due to cancer. Al tells him of a portal to the past that he discovered years before (or minutes) in his storage closet. So when he goes back in time, it is always 1958, but when he comes back it has only been two minutes in 2011 times, which explains why Al's condition seems to have happened overnight, when in reality he had been living several years in the past.
Al has gone back and forth a few times and says that when he changed something from the past that it became permanent unless he went back again. Once he went back, it was like a reset button. He had spent many years following Lee Harvey Oswald in an attempt to save President John F. Kennedy. They both discuss the whole "butterfly-effect" and watershed moments, but Al is unsure of the consequences of what it may do to the future. One thing that he does know for sure is that time is obdurate, and it absolutely does not want to be changed. And when you attempt to change it, it attempts to change you. Basically, there are consequences and it appears that Al is dying of cancer and it may be his punishment for trying such a feat. But does he learn? No. Basically he recruits Jake to go back in time and finish his work.
Jake is skeptical at first until he takes a little trip back to experience it for himself. Besides the cigarette smoke in the buildings and the smell of exhaust, he is fascinated by the past. He feels that he could just stay there and live out the rest of his life. What does he have to lose? His alcoholic wife left him for a man she met in a drug rehab center and he has no children. He is an English teacher at a local high school who also teaches adults on the side. It is an essay from the janitor of the school that seals his agreement to go back. He had written the requested assignment of a defining moment in his life. He wrote of his families murders at the hands of his father and the very reason why he has such a limp.
Jake decides to go back, and while he waits out the time to try and rescue the President, he will save the janitors family. What will be the consequences of doing this and can he take down this burly drunk? Only time will tell. But like I stated before, the past does NOT want to be changed, so there will be a price to pay. And only time will tell what the effects this will have on the future.
This book so exceptionally well organized and written and I am so glad that I broke down and read my first King novel. I am now a true fan and have already purchased more of his books!!
The only hangup or pondering that I had about this book is that if there is a butterfly effect and one small act changes directions for everything else, then wouldn't it be possible that Jake's parents may not have met or married? I mean, if people aren't living that had died in the past then it affects all of the people around them. The person saved will probably eventually marry someone and if they had died (as they were supposed to) then the person that they married would have married someone else and I think that affects so many things! There would be children born that wouldn't have been otherwise and in my mind that would change everyone's life.
So, what I am trying to get at is, if one act changes (and he changed several), then there may have been a very real possibility that Jake may not have been born. And if that were the case, then what would happen when he went back? Would he just vanish? I thought of this a lot and just wished that it was touched on a bit since the butterfly affect was discussed. Maybe I was thinking too big, but it just nagged at me for awhile. But it did not take away anything from the book. It was awesome!