Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
Gerald and Jessie Burlingame have gone to their summer home on a warm weekday in October for a romantic getaway. After being handcuffed to her bedposts, Jessie tires of her husband’s games, but when Gerald refuses to stop, the evening ends with deadly consequences. Still handcuffed, Jessie is trapped and alone. Over the next 28 hours, in the lakeside house that has become a prison, Jessie will come face to face with all the things she has ever feared. (via Goodreads)
I decided to read this book because it’s a lightly connected companion to Dolores Claibore which I enjoyed quite a bit. Both novels have events that occur during a solar eclipse in 1963. Dolores and Jessie have visions of each other during the eclipse…for no particular reason. I seem to remember when it came out that this novel wasn’t well regarded. It does have a meandering structure. It begins with Jessie and her predicament, moves to her battling her inner demons through remembering an abuse event that happened to her as a child (in 1963), comes back to physical reality, and then ends with an explanation of events that might have been otherwise attributed to the supernatural.
Jessie’s immediate situation is good fodder for a horror novel: while handcuffed to a bed, her husband dies of a heart attack. The cuffs are real; the keys are on the other side of the room. Jessie frees herself, eventually, in the manner one would expect, though about 320 pages into the novel. I found this to be the affecting part of the novel. Blood and gore might not be the most sophisticated form of horror, but done well? Man…
The rest of the novel is less successful. The abuse event that happened to Jessie as a kid? I don’t know. It’s squicky, but there an aspect of it that just doesn’t ring entirely true to me. It felt like King was trying to come up with a situation that was bad, but not super bad. The problem is I’m not sure that sexual abuse by a family member happens in a sort of one-off manner.
The end portion of the novel involves Jessie’s efforts confront serial killer Raymond Andrew Joubert. He’s sort on an extra element in Gerald’s Game, a twist that really isn’t. To Nebraskans of a certain age-group, the name Joubert is charged. John Joubert *was* the boogie man in 1983 when two boys went missing. His crimes began in Maine. So, for a moment, I wondered if there was some real aspect to Raymond Andrew Joubert that I was missing; some real-life nod that I might have caught on to during the narrative. That wasn’t the case. The two Jouberts have little in common.
Gerald’s Game isn’t a terrible read, but it’s not King’s best by a long shot.
Publishing info, my copy: mass market paperback, Signet, 1993
Acquired: Book Maze, 2014