11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/6311/22/63. Finished 3-16-16, rating 5/5, fiction, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio perfectly read by Craig Wasson. 31 hours.

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away . . . but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke. . . . Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten . . . and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.   from Goodreads

Stephen King sure does know how to tell a  story.  Everyone knows how imaginative he is based on his otherworldly horror novels, but what gets lost sometimes is just how good he is at drawing you in and keeping you there in his world well after the last page has turned.  This book is a departure of sorts and showcases just how well King can charm any reader.

In this ambitious novel, Jake Epping tries to become the hero the world needs.  In many ways he succeeds just by trying and in others his personal steadfastness saves the day.  In 2011, Jake is a high school teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, when he is approached by Al Templeton, owner of a local diner.  Al has a fantastical story to tell.  There is a time portal in his diner that goes back to 1958 and he wants Jake to go back in time to save President Kennedy from assassination.  Al has gone back many a time and gives Jake money, a plan, and all he needs to know to stop Oswald.  Is this a time travel story? Sure, but it’s also a love story, an inspirational story, a historical story…it packs a punch.  As it should since it’s over 800 pages!

I’m no JFK expert but I’ve read a few books and seen a few movies, so I was intrigued by the possibilities.  What if JFK had never been shot?  King weaves a thrilling story and the ending, haunting in its bleakness, will stay with you.  But so will Jake, and Sadie, and Jodie, Texas, and the many other colorful characters that fill the pages.  And if you’ve read It you’ll enjoy the stop in 1958 Derry.

Don’t miss this one!