The horror of self-discovery.
I’m sorry to say that this, but Lisey’s Story is my least favorite King novel so far. It is fantastically written with the right amount of horrific childhood trauma, as are all King novels, but I think this one may have been written more for himself then for anyone else. I’ll explain why, but I’ll start off with a summary.
Once upon a time there was a boy named Scott. His brother and him quite possibly had the bad gunky and their father cut them to make them better. One day his brother couldn’t be made better. Then it turned out his father had the bad gunky too. Then they were both gone and all that was left was Scott and Boo’ya moon, his safe haven, his healing place but also the world of his demons.
Lisey Landon is the wife of deceased novelist Scott Landon. Scott’s stories are much like King’s, horrific and yet riveting with a cult following. Lisey has spent her whole life living in the shadow of Scott’s career, always on the sidelines but present nonetheless. Now that he’s gone she is struggling with her place in the world and to put his memory to rest. Only it’s not that easy. Scott’s cult following, or Inucks as she calls them want anything and everything to do with her dead husband. When a psychotic lunatic with a penchant for pain sets his sights on Lisey, she is forced to open the door to her husband’s past. What really happened to his brother and dad? Was he responsible for their demise?
I think with this novel, King is in some ways foreseeing his own death and what his family will likely go through when he’s gone. People will be clamoring for his unfinished manuscripts and unpublished anything. Maybe his wife, like Lisey will be forced to look at her life and wonder. Was she only defined by her husband? Who is she now that he’s gone? I mentioned before that the horror of this book is the self-discovery, I think it’s Lisey’s self-discovery in the monsoon of her grief that is the most difficult to read. Losing someone you love is numbing in every way, trying to move past that grief and still function in the real world is downright ugly.
On a darker level the novel also explores the endless pool of horror that writers draw on for inspiration. In Scott’s case he lived through an abusive childhood but is anything really ever that cut and dry with King? Of course not, Scott was abused yes but without giving away too much, he also lived through experiences that would give Danny from the Shining a run for his money. At times, when King talked about the figurative “pool” that Scott drew from for his stories, I wondered does King have one as well? Do all writers have one? If so, is it only filled with dark memories? King is a master of his craft and my favorite passages in this novel were the ones where he described this other world that the pool existed in and the people that surrounded the pool. He talks about how they are shrouded in cloaks, not really dead or alive, just contemplative of their sorrows. They can walk into the water and heal themselves or they can stare at its depth seeing what could have been. I can’t do justice to this other world with my descriptions; you’ll just have to read it for yourself.
The story is beautiful. I may not have enjoyed it as much as his other novels but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. I found the novel to be for his loved ones, a love story to them, for them and about them. The ties of family, the thickness of blood, King explores this in heartbreaking detail, showing how he understands both the beautiful and ugly parts of human nature.