In his second novel of 2014 (the other being Mr. Mercedes), veteran yarn spinner King continues to point out the unspeakably spooky weirdness that lies on the fringes of ordinary life.
Think of two central meanings of the title—a religious awakening and bringing someone back to life—and you’ll have King’s latest in a nuthouse. Beg pardon, nutshell, though of course it’s madness that motivates all his most memorable characters. In this instance, a preacher arrives in a small New England town—always a small New England town—with an attractive wife and small child. Soon enough, bad things happen: “The woman had a dripping bundle clasped to her breast with one arm. One arm was all Patsy Jacobs could use, because the other had been torn off at the elbow.” And soon enough, the good reverend, broken by life, is off to other things, while our protagonist drinks deep of the choppy waters of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. “My belief had ended,” Jamie Morton says, simply—that is, until Rev. Jacobs turns up in his life again, after having spent time at the horrifying North Carolina amusement park that is Joyland (for which see King’s 2013 novel of the same name) and mastered not just the carney’s trade, but also the mysterious workings of “secret electricity.” Well, as Victor Frankenstein learned, electricity can sometimes get away from a fellow, and though young Jamie pleads with the bereaved pastor to get himself back on the good foot (“The newspapers would call you Josef Mengele.” “Does anyone call a neurosurgeon Josef Mengele just because he loses some of his patients?”), once it sets to crackling, the secret electricity can’t be put back into the bottle. Faith healing run amok: It’s a theme that’s exercised King since Carrie, and though this latest is less outright scary and more talky than that early touchstone, it compares well.
No one does psychological terror better than King. Another spine-tingling pleasure for his fans.