The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ Revival

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ Revival

A Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

 Revival – Stephen King 

I’ve read pretty much every Stephen King book there is, although I think I may have skipped a few around “Lisey’s Story” and “Cell” as I was busy having a kid.  Almost every time, I find myself engrossed, scared and involved in his tales – he is a bestseller for a reason.  And I am not one of those “Stephen King’s gone soft!!!” people – I honestly liked “11/22/63” as much as any of the battered horror paperbacks I spent my time hunched over in junior high. “Mr. Mercedes” was like Stephen King does Ed McBain – and I was fully on board. So I was a little disappointed to find myself less than fully engaged in his latest, “Revival”.  Maybe it’s me? Am I setting the bar too high because it’s Stephen King?  Is that fair to him?  Probably not.

I was lucky enough to see King speak in person on his short book tour in support of this title and I have to say that I think it made me like the book at least 27% more than I would have otherwise.  I waited for forty-five minutes in the FREEZING cold to see him and it was completely worth it.  He told stories, strummed a guitar, read from the book and was, in general, completely awesome. 12 year old me was SQUEEING hard-core at the idea of sitting so close while he regaled the crowd.  I especially enjoyed hearing his opinions on religion (not a fan) and his explanations of the dual meaning of the title “Revival” as in “a rousing church service” OR as in “coming back to life...."
Book Tour snaps by The Hardcover Honey

The story deals with sweet, innocent Jamie Morton, growing up in a mostly-happy family in the kind of mostly-nice small town that King can write in his sleep. When a new reverend comes to town, one Charles Jacobs, Jamie is the first kid to meet him and they essentially imprint on each other in ways that will reverberate throughout their respective lives. The new Reverend Jacobs quickly becomes a favorite of the town and the kids, in part because of his ways of making learning fun with tricks like an electrically powered tiny Jesus who walks on a tiny lake, which I have to admit does sound kid-impressive! When Charles’s gorgeous wife Patsy and adorable son Morrie are in a tragic accident, a little of old-school King shines through (“her right eye was on her cheek,” “not a baby but a little boy with his face torn off”) in a dramatic sequence. 

Photo by the Hardcover Honey
Charles’ faith quickly leaves him, and he departs the town, but not before delivering what Jamie dubs “The Terrible Sermon,” in which he recounts all kinds of horrific historical events and denounces religion in general, noting that “the largest and most successful sects have been built on the blood, bones, and screams of those who have the effrontery not to bow to their idea of God” – and here I felt King talking quite clearly through his creation, as he too has a healthy disregard for organized religion.

Smash cut to thirty years later and our Jamie has become a barely-functioning drug addict. If that seems a bit abrupt, don’t worry, as King deftly backtracks to fill in Jamie’s background, his discovery that he was a more than competent guitarist, his motorcycle accident (so reminiscent of King’s own accident a few years ago in which he was out walking and was hit by a van) and his subsequent addiction to morphine and in short order, heroin, after being part of a touring music scene for many years, where drugs seem to be a large part of the fabric.

Jamie stumbles upon Reverend Jacobs again at a county fair, where the Reverend is calling himself Dan the Lightning Portrait Man and producing weirdly interactive pictures using electricity, or as he calls it, the Lightning Maker (“the only one in the world!”). It seems the good Reverend’s fascination with electricity hasn’t abated, and in fact, he seems a man obsessed. He takes Jamie in and after a few days together, oufits Jamie with a battered pair of headphones and zaps him (for lack of a better phrase) – when Jamie awakens, he has some interesting aftereffects (i.e. stabbing his own arm with a fork) but they seem to be temporary, and the urge to use has completely left him. Although he does suffer some horrific recurring nightmares, they are occasional, and he is healthier than ever before.  What does Reverend Jacobs know about electricity that the average electrician hasn’t figured out yet? Is he a genius, a mad scientist – or some amalgamation of both?

If you’re paying attention, you can be pretty sure what Jacobs’s ultimate goal is with all this electricity (*cough*deadwifeandkid*cough*) but getting there is an interesting story as he treats many people along the way, becomes moderately famous as a faith healer, and Jamie intersects with him again.  

There was a lot about this book to love – I thought the end was ambiguous and dark (two of my favorite types of endings!) and that King drew an interesting portrait himself of a man obsessed. I liked the flash-forwards and the feeling of life passing by more quickly than any of us expect. I loved the follow-ups with the patients treated and their aftereffects – even if one from St. Louis (like me) named Rivard (like me) is referred to as “Patient Zero”! <shudder> For me, this was not his strongest work, but still a recommended read.

4 out of 5 dramatic lightning strikes for this one

Photo by The Hardcover Honey