April 08, 2020

Better with age Stephen King’s latest shows amazing literary growth

“LISEY’S STORY,” by Stephen King, Scribner, New York, 2006, hardcover, 512 pages, $28.

Stephen King has aged well.

As a writer, that is. I’ll leave it up to the Bangor author to assess his physical state, although I suspect he’s rather high mileage for a 59-year-old.

“Lisey’s Story,” which hits stores Oct. 24, is the kind of book into which an author grows. It isn’t what King could have written as a young writer in the early ’70s; instead, only after many deep dives into the language pool (which he describes in this novel) was he ready to create this, one of his best.

Although, as always, King explores the things that go bump in the night, “Lisey’s Story” is first and foremost a love story.

The Lisey in the title is Lisa “Lisey” Debusher Landon, who had lost her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Scott Landon, a couple of years before the novel opens. “Lisey’s Story” is about two people in a long-term relationship and the secret language they develop together. It’s also about Lisey’s healing process and Scott’s last message to her.

For the 20-plus years they were married, Lisey lived in the shadow of her famous husband. But she was his sole confidante, the one who gave him strength after learning of the terrible childhood which still haunted him.

You see, if people would say that Scott wasn’t all there, it often was true. From his early days, the world-famous author had an otherworldly place of refuge that he would escape to in hard times. It is a destination that Lisey tries to put out of her mind but ultimately must make peace with if she is to move on, alone.

This being a Stephen King book, of course there’s more than just personal transitions. Lisey has to deal with the monster from the other side that troubled Scott, and a predator in this world who terrorizes her supposedly to obtain Scott’s papers.

The book is dedicated to Tabitha, King’s wife of 35 years. In the author’s statement, King denies that Tabby is Lisey Landon, but still it can’t be easy being married to a man who creates other people’s nightmares.

King has said that he worked longer on “Lisey’s Story” than any other novel before, and it shows. While it still has his trademark spine-tingling suspense, it’s one of his best character studies as well. “Lisey’s Story” is an amazing change of pace for King.

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