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Lisey's StoryReview - Lisey's Story
A Novel
by Stephen King
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2006
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jan 2nd 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 1)

Lisey's Story is a portrait of a marriage between Lisey and Scott.  Scott Landon is a major American writer, winner of major awards, and quite serious: think Philip Roth or John Updike.  Lisey is just his wife, at least as far as the general public is concerned.  But Scott has been dead for several years, and scholars are very frustrated that she will not allow them to even see his remaining papers and manuscripts.  She sits in their house, reflecting on their life together.  The text shifts between descriptions of Lisey in the present, of her recollections of the past, and of her recollections of Scott describing his childhood. 

Oddly, there's not much suspense in this long novel -- over 500 pages, or 16 CDs on the audiobook read with conviction by Mare Winningham.  There are incentives to find out what happens: for example, Lisey is being threatened and stalked by one of Scott's fans, and this crazy man kills a cat and attacks her as way of threat.  This danger does not dominate the story, however.  Lisey has little to find out either, since she already knows just about everything concerning her husband.  There are just some small revelations at the end that help to finish off the tale. 

Nevertheless, the reader has a great deal to find out, as the intricacies of Lisey and Scott's life together are revealed.  We learn about their initial meeting, their romance and marriage, the difficult times they experience, the time that Scott was shot by another unbalanced fan, and Scott's final illness.  We also learn about Scott's father and brother, who are both dead.  It's here that the supernatural element comes in, and it is a major part of the book, one of the major secrets of their marriage.  Yet the book is far from a ghost or werewolf story.  We learn of a family curse and a different realm where people can visit, but these are painted in enough detail to be convincing, so Lisey's Story can appeal to readers who would never normally consider reading a paranormal horror book. 

Stephen King's style is to give much more detail about events than you would normally expect.  His words flow well, and he draws the reader into his world with great effectiveness.  Avoiding cliché, he vividly describes the private codes that two people develop when they have been living together for decades.  The odd words Lisey and Scott use to communicate are at first hard to decipher, but as we come to understand their marriage better, their language becomes more transparent.  We get a real sense of the long-term intimacy that has grown between the woman and the man through their creation and sharing private words to refer to the important moments in their years together.  

Despite the book's strengths, it still tries the reader's patience.  King's peculiar brand of down-to-earth depictions of the unreal are intriguing, and even convincing, but still he seems to include them mainly because they are strange and mystifying.  One might link the place that Scott goes, in some kind of different dimension, with the terrible experiences he had as a child, and thus one could see the story as a psychological strain of the symbolically rich and playful genre of magical realism.  However, Lisey's Story never quite rises to such a level, and is better grouped with King's own previous novels or the more magical work of Dean Koontz. 

 

© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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