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As Jessie Burlingame lies handcuffed to her bed in Gerald's Game (p. 487), she recalls how, on the clay 30 years ago that her dad molested her, she had a vision of a woman--a murderer?--at a well King explains that vision here: Dolores Claiborne is the woman, and her story of how she killed her husband, and the consequences, proves a seductively suspenseful, if quieter, complement to Jessie's shriek-lest of a tale. The garotte-tight Gerald's Game is one of King's most stylish novels, and the Maine author flexes more stylistic muscle here, having feisty Dolores tell her tale in a nonstop monologue, rich in Down East dialect, that steadily gathers force. Dolores, 65, is speaking to Andy Bissette, sheriff of the island offshore Maine where she's lived her life, most of it as housekeeper for Vera Donovan, a wealthy "bitch." We soon learn that Dolores has a confession to make--in her own sweet time ("I feel a draft in here, Andy. Might go away if you shutcha goddamn trap"). Amidst details--often crudely funny--of her power-plays with Vera, and of her early life, we learn how, years back, Dolores's rotten husband began molesting their teenaged daughter, then stole her college funds. Dolores's retribution--the killing--forms the story's centerpiece, and, taking place on the same day that Jessie's dad molested her, forges the psychic bond--neither elaborated on nor explained--between the two women. It's Dolores's final years with Vera, though, and the bitter manner of Vera's death, that have brought Dolores to the sheriff--and that ultimately transform this, like Gerald's Game, into a devastating tale of heroism in the face of life's suffering. Without the flash and twisted fun of Gerald's Game, this may not sell as well (despite a 1.5 million first printing); but Dolores is a brilliantly realized character, and her struggles will hook readers inexorably.
Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1992
ISBN: 0451177096
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1992


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