I have such a love/hate relationship with this book. For one, it’s full of twice-used ideas. Everything you find inside Lisey’s Story is taken part and parcel from other King novels. The idea of being haunted by a spouse and one half of the marriage being an author is Bag of Bones to a Tee. You have the lush other world just beyond ours that is wonderful during the day, and horrible after dark, via Rose Madder. Then you have the character of “Zack McCool” who is John Shooter from “Secret Window, Secret Garden” mixed with shadows of Annie Wilkes of Misery. It’s one of the only novels wherein King steals heavily from himself. He’s borrowed from numerous authors over his four-plus-decade career, but this time he’s riding the Dean Koontz train into Repeatsville. If it’s possible to plagiarize yourself, King does so in this novel. This and this alone is why I couldn’t see rating the book five stars.
With that being said, you’re unlikely to find a better written King novel. I understand why it’s King’s personal favorite. But that doesn’t mean I can ignore the blatant repetition. So what is a reviewer to do? This time around, I’m going with style over content.
King’s prose is gorgeous here, even moreso than in Bag of Bones, and that’s saying something. There are entire chapters worth quoting, and King himself will tell you that’s unlike him. He’s been honest in the past about how he sometimes awkwardly stumbles and powers through scenes with sheer dumb will, and that’s putting it nicely. Lisey’s Story, while being your typical King novel content wise, is a beautiful product conceived by a man who has spent almost half a century publicly honing his craft. It has all the staples of a terrific King novel: the horror, the unfailing heart, and the uncanny ability the author possesses of writing believable and flawed women.
My favorite part of this novel is early on, it is, truth be told, the only reason I finished the book the first time around, back when it came out in 2006. I will admit that the book is never quite as good, story wise, as it is during the scene wherein Scott is shot. Yes, the story is a struggle after that, mainly because it hops around through time like Bugs Bunny and Doctor Who’s hyperactive love child. You must pay close attention in the later chapters or risk being left in King’s dust. Still, these flashbacks and flash forwards and returns to present are touching and, at times, utterly heart rending. Scott’s death (it’s in the synopsis that he’s dead, so I don’t consider that information a spoiler) is probably the strongest-written section in the entire book.
For this reread, I decided on the audiobook narrated by Mare Winningham. If you dig audiobooks, I highly recommend you do the same. She especially excels at performing Young Scott.
In summation: Other than the final Dark Tower novels, Lisey’s Story was the best thing to come out of post-accident King. There have been other terrific novels since this one, but for a while after that van creamed him, I was concerned. I think we all were. Lisey’s Story renewed my faith in King.
Final Judgment: Rehashed hash can still get you high.
(Only three more books to go before I’m done with my rereads!)
Original post: edwardlorn.booklikes.com/post/1195736/lisey-s-story-review