Revival by Stephen King
A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.
In a small New England town, over half a century ago, 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 feel the same about Reverend Jacobs — including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties — addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate — Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.
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 Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe. (via Goodreads)
I was drawn to this book by its cover. Specifically, that cover with lightning and a revival tent; title in carnival lights. The blurb was pretty good too. I was intrigued by a revivalist preacher that might not exactly be a man of God. Revival isn’t quite what I expected because I kind of forgot that I was reading a Stephen King novel that “spans five decades.”
This novel rambles. I get that King wants to give this tale scope, but I’m reminded something I liked in M. R. James’ “‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad'” (a story that gets a mention in Revival, by the way): James introduces the tale through “a person not in the story.” That’s all the mention this character gets. Occasionally, I wanted a little less of the cast and details of Jamie Morton’s life. I think these long asides defuse the tension that should be maintained between Jamie and Jacobs.
I will also admit, I prefer “small” horror over universal dread. Revival takes a turn toward the cosmic which isn’t unexpected within the bounds of the story, but didn’t thrill me personally.
Publishing info, my copy: Scribner ebook, 2014
Acquired: Tempe Public Library Digital
Previously: Not my first Stephen King book, not my favorite Stephen King book, and won’t be my last Stephen King book.