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Lisey's Story: A Novelby Stephen King
Synopses & Reviews
Lisey Debusher Landon lost her husband, Scott, two years ago, after a twenty-five-year marriage of the most profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey had to learn from him about books and blood and bools. Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went — a place that both terrified and healed him, that could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live.
Now it's Lisey's turn to face Scott's demons, Lisey's turn to go to Boo'ya Moon. What begins as a widow's effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited. Perhaps King's most personal and powerful novel, Lisey's Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.
"Following King's triumphant return to the world of gory horror in Cell, the bestselling author proves he's still the master of supernatural suspense in this minimally bloody but disturbing and sorrowful love story set in rural Maine. Lisey's husband, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Scott Landon, has been dead for two years at the book's start, but his presence is felt on every page. Lisey hears him so often in her head that when her catatonic sister, Amanda, begins speaking to her with Scott's voice, she finds it not so much unbelievable as inevitable. Soon she's following a trail of clues that lead her to Scott's horrifying childhood and the eerie world called Boo'ya Moon, all while trying to help Amanda and avoid a murderous stalker. Both a metaphor for coming to terms with grief and a self-referencing parable of the writer's craft, this novel answers the question King posed 25 years ago in his tale 'The Reach': yes, the dead do love. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Following King's triumphant return to the world of gory horror in Cell, the bestselling author proves he's still the master of supernatural suspense in this minimally bloody but disturbing and sorrowful love story set in rural Maine. Lisey's husband, Pulitzer Prize — winning author Scott Landon, has been dead for two years at the book's start, but his presence is felt on every page. Lisey hears him so often in her head that when her catatonic sister, Amanda, begins speaking to her with Scott's voice, she finds it not so much unbelievable as inevitable. Soon she's following a trail of clues that lead her to Scott's horrifying childhood and the eerie world called Boo'ya Moon, all while trying to help Amanda and avoid a murderous stalker. Both a metaphor for coming to terms with grief and a self-referencing parable of the writer's craft, this novel answers the question King posed 25 years ago in his tale 'The Reach': yes, the dead do love." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Admit it: You've been a horrible snob about Stephen King. You've rolled your eyes at passengers on the Metro reading 'Pet Sematary.' You've told your son to put down 'Salem's Lot' and get a real book. When King won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation, you gleefully quoted Harold Bloom's crack about this new 'low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life.'... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Well, suck it up. Even that faint praise about how you can appreciate him for being good at 'what he does' isn't going to cut it anymore. With 'Lisey's Story,' King has crashed the exclusive party of literary fiction, and he'll be no easier to ignore than Carrie at the prom. His new novel is an audacious meditation on the creative process and a remarkable intersection of the different strains of his talent: the sensitivity of his autobiographical essays, the insight of his critical commentary, the suspense of his short stories and the psychological terror of his novels. (And yes, a few hairy monsters.) They're all evoked here in this moving story about the widow of a famous writer trying to lay her grief to rest. King claims in an afterword that this character — Lisey — is not based on his wife, but there's no denying who the famous writer is, and King fanatics will pounce on these personal details like Cujo on a bucket of chicken wings. The story opens two years after the death of Scott Landon, a prolific horror writer almost as popular as King but more critically acclaimed. For months, Lisey has been hounded for access to Scott's papers by 'the collectors and the academics who maintained their positions in large part by examining the literary equivalent of navel-lint in each other's abstruse journals; ambitious, overeducated goofs who had lost touch with what books and reading were actually about and could be content to go on spinning straw into footnoted fool's gold for decades on end.' (Take that, Dr. Bloom!) Though entering Scott's office is like scratching the scab of her mourning, once Lisey finally starts sorting, boxing and labeling his effects, the work inspires waves of nostalgia. She's drawn back into memories of her 25-year marriage with a brilliant, loving man who was haunted by childhood trauma. But two alarming events disrupt her reverie: First, her sister Amanda suffers a violent relapse in her battle against depression. Then, in the middle of that crisis, an anonymous caller threatens to kill Lisey if she doesn't immediately donate her husband's papers to the University of Pittsburgh. The caller sounds like a kook, but his threat forces her to recall an earlier insane fan who tried to assassinate Scott during a lecture tour. Of course, this is not the first time King has written about the misery of ardent fans. We all have reason to fear zombies and demonic Plymouths, but obviously the world's most popular living writer is especially terrified about the adulation that his gory tales inspire. The word 'fan,' after all, is just one padded cell away from 'fanatic.' King delivers a number of self-deprecating cracks here about the benefits of fame and wealth, but when it comes to the dangers of entertaining millions with fantasies of mayhem, he's dead serious. 'Lisey's Story' moves in several different directions at once, but everything that happens seems part of a complicated plan arranged in advance by Scott Landon to show his wife how much he loved her. Lisey finds among his papers a kind of scavenger hunt — a 'bool,' he calls it — that leads her through the major events of their long marriage, 'to allow her to face in stages something she couldn't face all at once.' In fact, one of the great charms of this novel is King's attention to the private language of affection: the silly phrases, lyrics, puns and pet names that Lisey cherishes as signs of their intimacy. Her battle against Scott's mad scholar-fan lurches erratically from harrowing to goofy, but fortunately much of the novel takes place in Lisey's memories as she recalls Scott's desperate courtship and his struggle to explain his father to her. He was a reclusive manic-depressive who loved his sons even as he savaged them. During the most horrific of these tales, when describing his father overcome with 'endless swirling bad-gunky,' Scott used to revert to his childhood voice. Read this on a bright afternoon: It's emotionally draining, and blood-draining, too — King at his most psychologically acute, as sympathetic as he is terrifying, wielding a startling blend of affection, pathos and horror. But there's something else lurking in this novel, something very strange, even for Stephen King. At its center, 'Lisey's Story' contains a huge, ungainly metaphor for the source of creative inspiration. It's an otherworldly place that Scott called Boo'ya Moon, a lush garden of delights and dangers, blooming lupines and dark trees, just on the other side of our dimension. (Under its blood-red dust jacket, the book's cover sports a psychedelic painting of Boo'ya Moon.) By concentrating hard, Scott could slip over to this alternate reality to escape his father, recover from his wounds and find fresh ideas. It contains a 'pool where we all go down to drink, to swim, to catch a little fish from the edge of the shore; it's also the pool where some hardy souls go out in their flimsy wooden boats after the big ones. It is the pool of life, the cup of imagination.' King works this hallucinatory vision hard throughout the novel, but it seems like a metaphor that never met a meaning it didn't like: It's an oasis of healing, but also a place of grave danger; a retreat for receiving insight, but also an island of Lotus Eaters; a sanctuary from harm, but also the realm of a piebald fiend called 'the long boy,' which is sometimes an embodiment of Scott's depression but other times just a scary monster that eats people. This amorphous metaphor feels like something King has rolled around in his mind for a long time, and his willingness to lay out such an intimate vision is endearing even if it's not entirely coherent. But what works beautifully throughout 'Lisey's Story' is the rich portrait of a marriage and the complicated affection that outlives death. Who would have thought that a man who's spent the last 30 years scaring the hell out of us would produce a novel about the kind of love that carries us through grief? Ron Charles is a senior editor at The Washington Post Book World." Reviewed by Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"King is surprisingly introspective and mature here. He showcases the agony and the ecstasy of the writing process....One of King's finest works." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] long, often long-feeling, utterly Stephen Kingish novel....The book is also, perhaps, a parable about love and imagination that affirms love as the more salvific of the two." Booklist
"King, often at his most powerful when exploring grief...takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through the artifacts of a marriage....There is little doubt that, in its monster-strewn, pop culture-laden way, this is also Stevie's Story. An essential addition to all King collections." Library Journal
"[A] tender, intimate book that makes an epic interior journey without covering much physical terrain....The scope sounds modest, yet this book is haunting even by Mr. King's standards. And he knows a thing or two about haunting." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"[A] beautiful, exquisitely told story, a tale of romance and passion so strong that it can outlast even the separation of death. It is also a haunting tale of true madness, the madness that exists in only the most damaged of minds." Chicago Sun-Times
"This is King at his best. Retired or not, he's at the top of his form. And Lisey's Story proves once again that, as a storyteller, a fantasist and a chronicler of the human condition, he has no match." Rocky Mountain News
"[P]assionate, often wrenching....This Story might take awhile to draw you in, but once King has you in his grasp, you'll willingly follow him to the end, no matter how scary things get along the way." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"In Lisey's Story, Stephen King makes bold, brilliant use of his satanic storytelling gift, his angelic ear for language, and, above all, his incomparable ability to find the epic in the ordinary, to present us with the bloody and fabulous tale of an ordinary marriage. In his hands, the long, passionate union of Scott and Lisey Landon — of any long-lived marriage, by implication — becomes a fantastic kingdom, with its own geography and language, its dark and stirring chronicle of heroes and monsters, its tragedies, griefs, and glories. King has been getting me to look at the world with terror and wonder since I was fifteen years old, and I have never been more persuaded than by this book of his greatness." Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
"[S]hould serve as definitive notice that Stephen King has evolved from a talented writer of horror into a serious literary artist. But he has yet to abandon the conventions that have made him a household name: a childish fixation on riddles and torture, a tendency to allow plot to trump character, action to overrun drama." Steve Almond, The Los Angeles Times
"Lisey's Story is a wondrous novel of marriage, a love story steeped in strength and tenderness, and cast with the most vivid, touching, and believable characters in recent literature. I came to adore Lisey Landon and her sisters, I ached for Scott and all he'd been through, and when I finally reached the bittersweet and heartfelt conclusion, my first thought was that I wanted to start over again from the beginning, for it felt as if I were saying good-bye to old friends. This is Stephen King at his finest and most generous, a dazzling novel that you'll thank yourself for reading long after the final page is turned." Nicholas Sparks, author of At First Sight and The Notebook
"[D]rowned by a boggy narrative he can barely steer through, there's little hope of King's finding a madeleine. In the end, this is not Lisey's story at all. It is the story of an author who should know better." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Lisey's Story is...a touching exploration of grief, an honest appraisal of marriage, a salute to resolute women and a paean to the collective imagination that links and sustains us. It's also a horrifying tale of child abuse, madness, mutilation and a monster almost too appalling to describe." Hartford Courant
"It's a powerful, genuinely moving novel: without a doubt one of the finest King has ever written." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"A taut thriller that is also a remarkable and haunting love story. Several years after he declared he was done with writing, King appears at the top of his game and Lisey's Story unveils yet another aspect of his vast repertoire." Baltimore Sun
Every marriage has two hearts, one light and one dark, and Lisey Landon must confront both. King's most personal and powerful book to date is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.
About the Author
Stephen King has written more than forty novels and two hundred short stories. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. King has also received the O. Henry Award for his story "The Man in the Black Suit." Among his most recent worldwide bestsellers are Cell, the Dark Tower series, On Writing, The Green Mile, and Bag of Bones. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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