Lisey's Story

Every relationship has its own interior landscape, its own map, its own language, its own set of rules. The stronger the relationship the more intricate the inner landscape. So it's only natural that Lisey and Scott Landon, who have been married for 25 years, have a particularly strong and complex tapestry. If their rituals are a little odd (fruit is poisonous at night, don't look at reflections in water glasses after the sun goes down) that's explained by the fact that Scott is a writer with a rich and fertile imagination. Of course that's going to influence their marriage, but what if there's a reason behind the rules? What if Scott, now dead for two years, knew something that his grieving widow is only now ready to face? Stephen King's newest book, Lisey's Story, is a gorgeous, haunting look at the meaning of family, creativity and insanity.

Lisey's Story begins two years after the death of Scott. Lisey is finally trying to sort out his study and decide what should go, what should stay and what should be given to a university. Because Scott was a best-selling author as well as a recipient of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer, the material he left behind is quite valuable to certain people, people that Lisey nicknames the Incunks because they say they want something that sounds like incuncabilla. She understands the important of getting the papers, etc. into the right hands but Scott's death has left a terrible hole in her life and she's only beginning to be able to face the monumental chore.

What she doesn't know is that a couple of people who think she's hoarding unpublished manuscripts for her own purposes have decided they need to take steps to force her to release everything. In order to survive the plan of the Incunk Lisey is going to have to do more than fight; she's going to have to remember everything strange she's blocked out from her years with her husband, a man who survived a brutal childhood by escaping to a magical and dangerous land called Boo'yah Moon. In Boo'yah Moon the fruit really is poisonous after dark and indescribable things roam the land looking for prey. But there's also a pool that cures wounds and the entire place is hypnotically beautiful. You just want to make sure you aren't there after dark and that you can find your way home again.

I was reading this book while in a waiting room the other day and someone asked me if it was scary. I said I didn't know, prompting them to think I was an imbecile, but I honestly couldn't tell. The beginning was confusing to me, as though I'd walked into a play and missed the first act, which I suppose makes a kind of sense since the entire wonderful/terrible marriage has already ended but once I got the hang of it and starting picking up the new words (like bool and SOWISA) I was enthralled. It's certainly an exciting book and it's suspenseful and thrilling and I worried about the characters but I don't think that I personally was ever frightened.

WARNING - there is an extremely gruesome scene where one character tortures another. Years ago when I read Misery I came to a scene that made me scream and throw the book across the room where I ended up circling it like a wolf, trying to decide if I was brave enough to pick the book up and finish reading it. There's a similar scene in Lisey's Story. I was hoping that the character would escape but you know how King is, he doesn't just foreshadow, he forethunderstorms and he said something like "all through the following beating and mutilation" so I knew something awful was coming. Now sometimes I'll just stop reading a book or watching a movie when there's a clue like that but my imagination is usually worse than whatever is in the scene I've decided to avoid. Not this time. This time it was worse. Quite frankly I think a scene like that could be a deal breaker. It may ruin the book for you. But I will say that what comes after is all the sweeter for it and some of the writing is lyrical enough to leap off the page. There was one sentence in particular that I thought was the best thing I've read in a long time. I had no problem handing the book off to another member of my family and telling them they would like it.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Trish (2006 Time Magazine Person of the Year!), who is commenting on Wild Trees by Richard Preston and says, "Wild Trees is probably 60% about the people who were the pioneers of climbing redwoods, their lives and motivations, and they're all a few bubbles off plumb and make for an interesting read. But it is also about the biology of the trees and that was fascinating. The first people to climb and document what they found got to the top and found berry bushes, ponds and critters that probably never touched the ground living in the crown of the trees. It made me want to learn how to climb to see for myself -- like that will happen! If the part about being in the tree in the storm and the aftermath of that doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, you're inhuman." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.