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Lisey's Story    by Stephen King order for
Lisey's Story
by Stephen King
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Anyone who spends a few years in the business of writing book reviews knows that reviewing some books (especially books by well-established and extraordinarily popular authors) can occasionally seem like pointless and wearisome exercises.

There is a reason for this feeling of frustration and ennui among reviewers. You see, certain authors (Stephen King being the case-in-point for this review) can apparently do nothing wrong in the eyes of their loyal fans (which is the shortened form of fanatics, the more appropriate label) and in the view of their rabidly commercial publishers.

To state the problem in a slightly different way, some authors (again, Stephen King, stands as the exemplar) can write just about anything, and - because of their iconic status - these authors remain consistently at the top of the best-seller lists, consistently successful as commercial and popular writers (even if some critics do not always show the same kind of enthusiasm).

With that and other issues being incontrovertible facts of life in the book business, I recognize that neither my effusive praise nor my abusive excoriation will have any effect upon certain authors' latest works. So, with a full understanding that my assessment of Stephen King's latest novel will be largely irrelevant, I nevertheless offer the following preview (and review) of Lisey's Story:

When readers join the action of this 509 page novel, they meet Lisey Landon, a woman who had been married for 25 years to one of America's most popular and most respected award-winning writers. Before his death a couple of years prior to the novel's beginning, Scott Landon and his wife Lisey had plenty of good times together, but they also had their share of harrowing times. As an example from 1988, a woman at a library ground-breaking ceremony at the University of Tennessee had been intent upon killing Scott, and she had aimed her small revolver at him; Lisey, however, reacted quickly by grabbing one of the ceremonial shovels and using it to strike out at the woman with the revolver. And though the woman was still able to fire the gun, Scott was seriously but not fatally wounded. He and Lisey would continue their long and loving marriage until health problems ended his life.

In the present, Lisey must deal with a number of problems. Somehow she must organize all of her late husband's papers and manuscripts. She must also deal with her sister Amanda's self-destructive emotional problems. Lisey continues also to deal with her grief.

Then, a man calling himself Zack McCool obsessively intrudes upon Lisey's life and seeks to undermine and pervert her memories of Scott. More urgently, McCool's menacing intrusion endangers Lisey's very survival. As she devises a strategy to fight against the man who threatens to destroy her, Lisey finds - to her surprise - that she can find strength and support from unlikely sources. Lisey realizes that even that 1988 incident in Nashville, Tennessee, represents a key to her survival. And, in a most compelling way, Scott's imagination and - in a more disturbing way - the hidden terrors and dark secrets from Scott's past can become Lisey's most powerful allies.

Partly love story, partly ghost story, partly gothic horror tale, and partly blood-and-guts terror - typical Stephen King fare - Lisey's Story succeeds on many levels. Stephen King employs a complicated stream of consciousness narrative (borrowing from a technique more successfully used by Virginia Woolf early in the 20th century), although his approach may be a bit too prolonged and rambling for some of King's readers.

Personal and powerful, Lisey's Story is admittedly a dazzling novel. And in closing I would say simply this, which you may or may not interpret as praise: When I finished reading Lisey's Story, I wanted to read it again! I wanted to go back to the beginning and - this time - more generously savor the bittersweet and heartfelt novel's characters and passions along with its 'heroes and monsters, its tragedies, griefs, and glories.'

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