Stephen King may very well be one of the best pound for pound storytellers alive. While his prose isn’t something akin to authors that might be considered with the Pulitzer or Man Booker crowd, he does have a knack for telling very interesting, unique stories. Mr. Mercedes, King’s novel from earlier this year, had a great premise, but suffered by being a bit longer than necessary. His second novel of the year, Revival, was announced sometime earlier in the year and the anticipation has been building since. With a plot description that gave readers little idea of what the book was about, most were undoubtedly delighted to read another of King’s tales set in rural Maine.
The novel begins with Jamie Morton; it’s 1962 in Harlow, Maine and as any six year old might be doing, he’s planning a two sided green army soldier attack in the yard in front of his parents house. Suddenly a mysterious figure blocks his source of light and he glances up to see the man that’ll go on to be his future preacher at the local church. But just as soon as Jamie makes an important bond with Reverend Charlie Jacobs, disaster strikes the town and Jacobs is booted out, leaving Jamie feeling lost and confused. It’s nearly 30 years later that Jamie meets Jacobs again, this time under different, much more dire circumstances. Jacobs is working as a carny, doing electrical photographic tricks. Jamie however is a down-on-his-luck musician with a nasty heroin addiction. Jamie will run into Jacobs a few times over the remainder of his lifetime, each time while they are both in drastically different places in their lives. However, as the two continue to collide, they both realize they are reaching an inevitable end to their run together.
Revival is a bildungsroman novel to a T. However fast paced it might be, we do progress with Jamie Morton from age six to sixty something. Because the novel covers almost sixty years of Jamie’s life, we aren’t treated to tasty details about all the years of his life, but rather a detailed account of the most important parts: the Charlie Jacobs moments. What starts out as an account of a boy living in 1960’s Maine, soon turns into an almost Southern Gothic where our narrator bounces from band to band, city to city. No matter where he goes however, it isn’t long before he finds himself eye to eye with his former preacher yet again.
The only real drawback of Revival is that it probably didn’t have to be as long as it was. Yes, yes I know we’ve all heard and said this about King’s books before, but this time it isn’t a bad thing. Revival is only 405 pages, a whole 48 pages less than Mr. Mercedes, which itself was much too long. As previously mentioned we start with Jamie in Harlow, Maine and quickly jump around with him. First we follow him to high school, then college, then on the road with one of the many bands he’ll play with. Some of these segments last a few pages, some a good chunk of the story. While some of the time segments might seem unnecessary, they actually don’t hurt the story with their presence. It’s so blatantly obvious that the story wants to focus on the time that Jamie spends with Jacobs, that parts where he isn’t involved have a relieving sense to them. The stories content too isn’t inherently supernatural by any means, leaving it as one of the most realist/slice of life novels that King’s written to date. Most King fans will probably chalk this one up in the meh/good category, which is exactly where it belongs considering it’s nothing close to his best work.
Rating: 7/10 – While clearly not his best work, Revival is definitely a step up from some of the more shoddy King novels. It may not be his best ever, but it’s still a damn fine story.