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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Lisey's Story - Stephen King During the last five or six years, I dropped out of reading the brand new Stephen King novels. (I did read the short collections, because his short works are fantastic.) Mostly because I wasn’t feeling a lot of them and the “Hey, we’re trying to get the Dark Tower finished!” (And before you ask, aside from ONE story, I haven’t read the Dark Tower cycle. Yeah, I know.) Lisey’s Story was one of those books released during this period, and my mom read it, and she liked it and handed it off to me. And after a while of sitting on my shelf, I finally picked it up.And I do like this book. It does fall neatly in the middle of my Stephen King rankings, albeit a bit higher up than most of his other works. It’s a story that would have worked without the supernatural trappings, although the darker aspect to Scott’s backstory feels a little strange. It feels like territory King would later explore in the short “A Good Marriage” from Full Dark, No Stars with the “You can live with a person for years and still don’t know everything about them.” And while it also treads his favorite territory of having characters with similar professions, I like that we get Lisey’s perception of being married to a writer.Lisey is solid. This is one of the better examples of King writing women (although he does touch on some issues, but it’s more with Amanda, more on that below.) One of the things I really loved about Lisey and her position is that King highlights the misogyny that occurs to women attached to charismatic pop culture icons—according to the legions of Scott’s fans, Lisey isn’t someone who’s still grieving over her husband who she never quite understood and is still trying to understand; she’s a conceited bitch who should have gotten over his death six months after the fact and should have released his unpublished works already. She’s not a person, she’s a wall standing in the way of what the fans want. And I like that this not only gets explored in the eyes of a psychopath like Dooley, but also the more ‘rational’ Professor Woodbury.But I do really like Lisey, and while she may not understand her husband all of the time, she does find ways to reach out for Scott and care for him. I like that their relationship isn’t perfect and happy, but King does illustrate the deep love that they have for one another. I like that she has a uneasy relationship with her sisters, which is probably one of the most realistic aspects to her character.In that vein, Lisey’s older sister Amanda. Amanda is probably my favorite character in the whole book, as she’s the one I can pity the most. And here is my one major issue with the book overall—Amanda is explicitly described as a self-mutilator with a tendency to crack very easily. While I can kinda see Lisey’s (and their other sisters’) frustration with not understanding Amanda’s psyche and thinking that she’s a drama queen who cuts for attention—I’m not happy with it, but I understand that would be their mindset—what I don’t like is how King pretty much ascribes the same behavior to all self-mutilators. It doesn’t help that Scott has a history of cutting himself, but his reasons for cutting are the same for Amanda. It’s a very complicated subject to portray well in fiction, but I really don’t like the equation that “EVERYONE who cuts themselves ends up in a mental fantasyland and staring at the walls in real life.” I don’t want a full disclosure on the different types, but had Amanda acted differently, I think it would have been handled better. My big problem with the book overall has to be the concept of Boo’ya Moon. This is a book that would have worked fantastic on a psychological level, and for large chunks of the book, it does. Scott’s whole backstory feels like he could have made Boo’ya Moon up to deal with the abuse and again, conceptually, it works as the idea of “All writers get their ideas and words from this mystical pool.” And you have Lisey who isn’t quite sure about how truthful her husband’s childhood tales are and if he might have just made up this fairytale land to cope. Add on the threat of Dooley, and this would have been a fantastic psychological thriller. But making Boo’ya Moon real and bringing in demons and possession (which feels like an out for Scott’s conscience—I know he carries the guilt of his father and brother for the rest of his life, but still), it just feels a bit…of a cop-out. The fantastic elements aren’t a complete detriment to the book, but it could have worked just as well without them, or even a larger element of ambiguity. Because the cat-and-mouse between Dooley and Lisey is really good, and tense—you don’t know how Lisey’s going to handle this psychopath; how dangerous is Dooley, exactly; what does he really want? And then you add on the mystery of Scott’s childhood and his own mental state. Again, I’m not decrying the book for its lack of ambiguity, but it feels like it would be a fantastic book had it been.For a completist or a really big Stephen King fan, I would say yes to reading this. But for anyone who’s just getting into King’s work, I would recommend skipping this book for a while. It’s not a terrible read, and while it’s solid, it’s not really jumping up on my list to be read immediately.