Stephen King novel explores time travel

Kelly Malambri/Columnist

Frank Dunning slaughtered his wife and two of his kids with a sledgehammer. He left one of his kids crippled for life. Decades later, his surviving son, Henry Dunning, wrote about his story in an essay he was working on to gain his G.E.D.

After reading his article, Dunning’s teacher, Jake Epping, went back in time to do something about the fateful night when the murders occurred.

However, Epping did not only go back in time to help the Dunning family— he wanted to change much more.

After finding out that his local burger joint owner, Al Templeton, had found a way to travel back in time, the 35-year-old high school teacher was convinced by the dying man to try to save the world by preventing the Vietnam War by saving the life of John F. Kennedy.

In his best-selling 2011 novel, “11/22/63,” Stephen King explores the concept of time travel through Epping’s story. Throughout his book, King suggests that no one can change the past, but history can be slightly altered.

For example, Jake Epping faces every possible obstacle in his path to save not only Kennedy, but Dunning, sudden bad health, citizens determined to get in his past and the past itself, working to maintain “the order of the universe.”

The novel also fearlessly addresses the many conspiracy theories that have been created because of stipulation in the killing of JFK. In the book, Templeton states that he is 95 percent sure that Oswald did the deed. Jake Epping attempts to verify this information before going after the suspected murderer.

In his afterword, King writes that, after doing much reading on the incident, he is between 98 and 99 percent sure that Lee Oswald did in fact murder JFK and he prepared for controversy before the novel was released. The facts and details in the novel are based off of his research. This allows the reader to be transported to 1958— when Jake Epping steps into Templeton’s time warp.

While the novel is excellent, like almost all of Stephen King’s books, it is not a light or short read by any means. The novel is most certainly a time-consuming read. If you are a fast reader, it is a great pick.

Otherwise, I suggest saving this one for the summer or for a time when you are sure you will have a lot of free time The novel’s ending is bittersweet. Jake Epping does change the past, but not without consequences.

When Epping realizes the reality he has created is worse than the one that would have existed if he left things alone, the novel twists yet again as Epping goes back in time once more.

Without giving away more of the story, readers will be satisfied by the way Epping’s story, especially his love interest with Sadie, a woman he met when he traveled back into the 1960s, concludes. The ending manages to find the perfect balance of leaving the reader happy for Epping while not being predictable.

Overall, the novel is a stunning piece of investigative history work and is instructive. I learned much about the Kennedy and Oswald situation that I was never aware of but should have known.

It is a novel that should be saved for when the reader (and in many of our cases, busy college students and professionals) has time to learn.

Cover to Cover is a biweekly book review column. 

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