King (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) revisits a couple of familiar themes while paying heed to new realities in this elegant whisper of a story.
Scott Carey has a problem. He’s a big guy, clocking in north of 240 pounds, but lately the bathroom scale has been telling him something different: He looks the same, but he’s losing weight, pound after pound. “Twenty-eight pounds,” he tells a doctor friend. “So far.” There’s more weight loss to come, recalling horrormeister King’s Thinner (as Richard Bachman), though without the curse. But what is it that’s remaking Scott—diabetes, cancer, a change of metabolism? It’s not for want of eating: As King writes, “One of the benefits of his peculiar condition, aside from all the extra energy, was how he could eat as much as he wanted without turning into a podge.” An adventurous palate, curiosity, and a brace of pooping pups who leave bits of themselves on his lawn put him into the orbit of a married couple, two newcomer women, who have opened a vegetarian Mexican restaurant in a quiet town in—where else?—Maine. The locals don’t favor the couple with their business until—well, it would give too much away to talk about precipitating events, except to say that Scott has a way of being just where he’s needed in the midst of inclement weather, to say nothing of a gift for setting a good example of neighborliness. As befits the premise, King delivers an uncharacteristically slim novel, just a hair longer than a novella, and one wishes there were just a little more backstory to give depth to Scott’s good-guyness. Why is his reaching out to beleaguered neighbors important in “Trumpian” times? “It just is,” Scott tells us, before he finds a memorable—and quite beautiful, really—way to depart a Podunk town made all the better for his presence.
A touching fable with a couple of deft political jabs on the way to showing that it might just be possible for us all to get along.