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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
© 2007 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
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.