“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little “peek” at what the book’s about and what I thought. This week’s “take a peek” book:
In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs Jacobs; the women and girls – including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister – feel the same about Reverend Jacobs. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.
Then tragedy strikes the Jacobs family; the preacher curses God, mocking all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. In his mid-thirties, he is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate, he sees Jacobs again – a showman on stage, creating dazzling ‘portraits in lightning’ – and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings. Because for every cure there is a price…
This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.
It’s really impossible to quibble with Stephen King. He’s a master writer, and even in his lesser works, his gifts shine through. But for me at least, Revival is a step down from some of his more recent brilliant novels.
Revival is never dull, but it does take a very long time to truly start building momentum. I was at the 200-page mark before I began feeling any urgency in my reading. Perhaps the problem lies in starting the story with Jamie as a six-year-old. A great deal of time is spent on his childhood and adolescence, and while these years matter in the overall story, it’s a very slow build.
The ending is nightmarish, no doubt about it. And yet, I never felt a strong sense of where this story was going. There isn’t a whole lot of black and white, good and bad. The bad guy isn’t, strictly speaking, a real bad guy. The climax is a bit out of the blue, although hints pile up prior to the big event. Jamie himself is an interesting character, and while I was invested in him and his ability to turn his life around, I didn’t quite buy the obsession with Charlie Jacobs or the level to which he influences Jamie’s life.
I enjoyed Revival, and lost a lot of sleep after finishing it at one in the morning. Yes, by the end I couldn’t put it down, and found it intensely creepy and unsettling. Still, overall, I wouldn’t rank it among the Stephen King books that I routinely describe as masterpieces. This feels second-tier to me — but even so, second-tier King is still better than so much else that’s out there, and if you want a book that blends boyhood nostalgia with the most awful feeling of impending doom, you really can’t go wrong with Revival… or pretty much anything else King has written.
(PS – Completely irrelevant to discussion of the merits of this book… but Outlander fans will be amused by the presence of characters named Jamie, Claire, and Brianna in Revival.)
Author: Stephen King
Publication date: November 11, 2014
Length: 403 pages