Sometimes the book is better. . .
Every summer I try to read books that go together. Sometimes I go by series, author, theme, or just tackle two really big books. This summer I decided, it’s Stephen King. I have read many of his short story collections including Nightmares and Dreamscapes and Everything’s Eventual, and previous novels The Shining and Doctor Sleep. But when I got to thinking, I realized that there were so many of his novels I haven’t read. So I began with IT, due to all of the buzz around the new film coming out, which looks great by the way. I loved IT and sought to read as many books as I could this summer. After reading a few more such as Misery and a good reread of Christine, I decided on Pet Sematary. And let me say, never have I been so scared of a book yet.
The plot synopsis is as follows:
“When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son—and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat.
But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth—more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.
The Creeds are going to learn that sometimes dead is better.”
To begin with, I always read the introductions to King’s books, because it is here where we can get some of King’s personal thoughts on his work. Pet Sematary is the book that Stephen King says is the one that disturbed him the most. After writing it, he had put it away for an extended period of time without reading it. Only when his publishers were demanding the last book to fulfill his contract, did he get back to it. After reading it through, King himself was horrified, and here’s why: The location of the book, Ludlow, Maine, is based on King’s time as a professor at a university while living in Maine. There was a real Pet Sematary, his daughter was experiencing trouble over her cat dying, and there in fact was a deadly road in the front of their house. Perhaps the most disturbing connection was the fact that King was often worried of his son wandering too close to the road, but luckily this would never occur. Then, King was left with that lingering question, “What if?”. And Pet Sematary was born. I was left thinking to myself, what would I do if everything I love was taken from me? And what would I do to get it back? I knew what happened in the story, as I have seen the movie countless times. I still found myself asking these hard life questions, and I hadn’t even started reading the book yet.
Why the book is crucial to any self-respecting Stephen King fan:
There are many reasons I was awed by this book. The characters are so fully developed, and nothing is unnecessary. As you are reading, you know everything has a purpose. Jud’s porch talks with Louis have meaning, where the line, “The soil of a man’s heart is stonier”, comes in to play. Watching the movie, I never understood what this meant. Now I do. Another interesting factor is that Jud’s wife, Norma, is still alive in this book, and by the end, we learn the truth about their relationship, which is not as perfect as we thought. We also learn more of a background history of the hate that exists between Rachel’s father and Louis. The history of The Mic Mac Burial Ground is further explained, as we learn the legend of the Wendigo, a cannibalistic soul, who wanders the cursed woods, is a factor in the ground becoming “sour”, turning it into a place where the dead rise.
Some of the more disturbing parts of the book include (**POSSIBLE SPOILERS**):
- The Sense of Fear- At the beginning of the book, Louis is taking Gage up to bed and experiences a random but terrifying sensation of dread and fear. One can only assume it is the foreshadowing of what is to come.
- The Burial of Church- Jud takes Louis up to The Mic Mac Burial Ground to bury Church. The journey is frightening and here we experience the giant Wendigo, as well has the laughing/crying sounds Jud tries to explain away as “loons”.
- Gage Grown Up- The dream Louis has of Gage in which he envisions saving him just in time. He sees Gage grow up, have a girlfriend, become a Catholic, and watches him on TV make the U.S. Olympic Swimming team, only to wake up to the realization that it is another boy in his place on the screen, winning the gold.
- The Return of Timmy Baterman- Here Jud finally confesses to the truth that a person was buried at the Mic Mac burial ground, a boy brought home dead from the war. What the movie lacked in this scene, the book makes up for it ten times over. Timmy is seen by Jud as true evil. With eyes that look like “raisins in dough”, we learn that not only is Timmy decomposing, what’s behind his eyes is something all-knowing, pretending to be human. The scene in which they confront this being, they find Timmy staring up at the setting sun, casting a red glow over them. He looks slowly to Jud and smiles. I thought it was truly creepy.
- Louis Exhumes Gage/Chaos Ensues- Louis sends his family to Chicago so he can execute his plan to dig up Gage, and take him to the Mic Mac burial ground. The chapters split between Louis, and Rachel trying to get back home, and Jud trying to stay awake to meet Louis when he gets home. Through it all Louis is aware he is lying to himself, as he knows Gage will come back wrong, yet he does it anyway. As he lifts Gage’s coffin, the reader, as well as Louis, is horrified by what is seen. Stephen King doesn’t spare us when it comes to the details, and I will leave it at this, King did his research on decomposition. After all this, we know what happens. Gage comes back evil, inhuman, just in time to kill Jud, and Rachel. Louis discovers all this, even seeing Rachel and knowing “Something has been at her”. Yet, he still does the unthinkable, and buries Rachel up there too.
DID YOU KNOW (**SPOILERS OVER**):
Lastly, my favorite things about reading Stephen King’s books are the connections he makes to his other works within the novel. Every time I come across one, I always need to take a step back and appreciate the awesomeness of how seamlessly it ties in. The best part is that it always happens when you least expect it, so I don’t want to give that away. But I will give a small hint; “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
I hope this write-up gives you some inspiration to read Pet Sematary, as I feel it’s a book everyone should read at some point in their life. It will leave you questioning yourself, “What would I do?”. And isn’t that sometimes where the scariest answer is buried?
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