5 stars out of 5
Few writers can weave a tale any better than Stephen King; it's a tribute to his talent that I - one who has the patience of a flea - am willing to dive in to his books even when they're 600-plus pages long. In this case, that wasn't an issue; it's a very reasonable 417 pages - almost a novella by King standards. And by golly, it's a good one.
It starts in a small town about 50 years ago, when new preacher Charles Jacobs takes over the smallish Methodist Church (bringing back memories of my own childhood that included great times in the little country Methodist Church I attended). Jacobs is charismatic, his wife is beautiful, and they have a young son; quickly, he wins parishioners over and makes friends with young Jamie Morton and his family. He and Jamie form a special bond when he shares a secret passion - electricity - which he uses to "cure" a serious health condition of Jamie's brother.
Soon, though, tragedy strikes Jacobs hard when his wife and child are killed in a horrific traffic accident. One Sunday morning not long after, Jacobs goes on a tirade against God from his pulpit, ranting and raging and angering parishioners to the extent that he loses his job and leaves town. Jamie and his family have their own problems, and Jamie - who plays a mean guitar - begins to play in bands as he roams around the country. When he reaches his mid-30s, he's a heroin addict and nearly destitute - the perfect time to meet up with his old friend Jacobs once again.
Then again, maybe not. The rest of the book follows Jamie's rather tumultuous life and his here-and-there encounters with the one-time minister, whose passion has turned to obsession - all leading to a dark and stormy ending.
I've read several reviews that bandied about the word "classic," but I'm not sure I totally agree. Even as the ending came fast and furious, I never felt anything close to fearful. Most of it, in fact, just seemed to be a really good old-fashioned story that offers an in-depth look into the lives of two main characters - although it can be said that neither has followed the beaten path. A word of caution is in order, though: The theme, one of finding out what happens after we humans leave this life, may be off-putting, blasphemous, frightening, or just strange, depending on your degree of religiosity (I thought I'd made up a new word here, but no cigar - it already exists and yes, refers to aspects of religious activity). As for me, I'll just call it a great story - and another winner for the King.
Revival by Stephen King (Scribner, November 2014); 417 pp.