I can’t say that my love of books and reading started with Stephen King. No, my parents get to take the credit there. Their house was filled with books – books on shelves, books in boxes; ancient, dusty volumes and cheap, colorful paperbacks alike. We read, and we were read to… The Hobbit
, The Little Prince
, Watership Down
, all the classics, and then some.
Though I do love to read, I don’t know if I’d call myself an avid reader… no, I’m a one-chapter-before-bed kinda gal. It’s hard for me to sit still (and stay awake) long enough to pull an all-nighter with a book, no matter how intriguing. The S.O., on the other hand, consumes books. He can read, and read, and read, and you wouldn’t even know he was alive if he didn’t have to turn pages, because he has the ability to sit absolutely still for hours, just reading a book. I wish I had his ability for quietude.
I’m also incredibly selective about the books I buy – if I won’t read it more than once, I won’t buy it. My book collection is small, but I’ve read every book at least twice, most three or four times. This, in striking contrast to the S.O., who is an equal-opportunity book-buyer. If it’s words on a page sandwiched between two pieces of bookboard, it’s fair game. Where I have one tall bookshelf of books, the S.O. has four… five… maybe six…. He’d probably have more, except we don’t actually have enough bookshelves to house them all. I swear, his books actually breed. As a result, our house looks very much like my parents’ house did when I was young… books on shelves, books in boxes, books on the bedroom floor that I will certainly trip over on my way to the bathroom at 3 a.m. And that’s okay, because there are worse things to trip over in the middle of the night… Legos come to mind.
Even when I love an author, I don’t necessarily love all of their books, or aspire to own the complete collection. In the case of Stephen King, there’s a lot of work to choose from, and a couple of his novels just didn’t hit the spot with me. Gerald’s Game was almost too dark (though I suppose if you want real life horror, child molestation is about as horrific as it gets) and definitely too gory. Cell fell flat with me entirely – it felt stale, like the story never really got off the ground, and the conclusion was anticlimactic. I’d bought the book blindly (c’mon, it’s “Stephen King does zombies!” How can I go wrong?) but I was very disappointed.
So when I saw Lisey’s Story in the store a few weeks ago, I approached with caution. I read the inside cover flap and wasn’t turned off, but I wasn’t hooked either. I read a few excerpts and those, while well-written, didn’t move me. I actually went to the store twice and picked up the book with the intention to buy it both times, but before we could make it to the counter I’d put it back and think, “I don’t trust you anymore, Stephen King. That Cell thing just didn’t cut it. I need time. It’s not you, it’s me.” What it finally took was a blog post from another of my favorite authors – Jennifer Weiner – to convince me that I needed to give Lisey’s Story a chance. So, after the third trip to the bookstore, I picked it up and held on tight, all the way through the checkout process.
Even after I’d bought it, though, I let the book sit on my nightstand for a week. You can blame Richard Russo and Empire Falls, since I can’t very well pick up a new book without finishing the one I’m currently reading. It’s just not right, and I knew I liked Empire Falls, whereas Lisey’s Story was not a trusted companion… yet. But last Saturday I woke up at 6:30 in the morning with one purpose in mind: Finish Empire Falls so I can take a shot at Lisey.
And wow, I’m glad I did. I spent much of Sunday and Monday night with Lisey and her story. I’m not entirely sure what it is that makes this book so good. There’s this underlying tension throughout the novel, this dream-like quality that makes me think I’m trapped in Lisey’s head, and has me telling myself, “Just one more chapter…” even when I’m exhausted and want to sleep. There’s also this incredible sense of intimacy… I feel like I’m reading someone’s diary. It’s been a long time since I’ve found a story that’s captivated me like Lisey’s Story has so far. It’s not blatantly creepy, but you get the impression that it will come at you and grab you by the throat at any moment.