I’ve been reading King for 34 years and I’ve (generally) enjoyed all his books (Tommyknockers remains one book I’ve never been able to read) and while many just think of him as horror novelist, I think that does a disservice to all his books, but especially the novels he’s released in the last decade and half. King’s greatest gift is that he can convey deep emotion in all his characters (including ones who make only the briefest of appearances) while attempting to scare the wits out of you. It gives the readers a chance to really connect with them –even when they’re put in positions no one ever wants to put in.
The tale is narrated by the easy going, yet damaged Jamie Morton. And King, who is always and forever obsessed with the decades he grew up in (the 1950s and 60s), begins in 1962 when Jamie is 6, and with the arrival of Charles Daniel Jacobs, the town of Harlow, Maine’s new Methodist minister. Jacob’s is happily married to a beautiful woman and has an adorable 2 year-old son. And like many men, he has a hobby, but one that seems unusual (yet not) –electricity. But when a car accident claims the life of his wife and son, Jacob’s loses his faith. But in that hollow part of his heart that was torn asunder by his loss, Jacob’s fixation with his hobby grows. Over the next 50 years, Jamie -who was once devoted acolyte of Jacobs’ but has become a wary skeptical adult- seems to encounter his friend constantly. He sees Jacobs’ go from preacher to carnival huckster, to faith healer to –in the end- a man who is convinced that his secret electricity will give him a chance to see what lays beyond this mortal coil.
In King’s dedication page, the author lists a number of authors who’ve “built his house.” Those include the obvious ones that have influenced his writing, Shirley Jackson, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, long-time friend Peter Straub and Arthur Machen, who’s The Great God Pan “has haunted me all my life.” It is clear that Revival borrows themes from many of these authors, especially H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen. The ending of this wonderful book is perhaps King’s best and his prose, always precise, grows stronger and more meaningful as the story progresses.
As much as I like Mr. Mercedes from earlier this year, Revival is a stronger book, filled with dead-on details of growing up in the 1960s and images of pain and suffering all of us go through on this journey from the cradle to the grave. And while I for one hope there is something beyond this life, I will hope it is nothing like the nightmare described in the final chapters of this novel.