Jake Eppling, mild mannered high school English teacher just got a strange phone call from an acquaintance, someone he only knows casually. The man is strangely and all of a sudden on death’s door and Jake knows he’s just seen him recently and wonders how that’s possible, but when he receives the request he has to wonder if the man hasn’t lost his marbles. Al Templeton owner of the hamburger joint that Jake frequents has asked Jake to pay him a visit it’s important he says. The visit turns into an episode of The Twilight Zone for Jake and what’s impossible seems impossibly possible. It seems that Al has discovered a time portal and had all intentions of changing history, of preventing the bullet that killed JFK from leaving Oswald’s gun, only now he’s not well enough and he’s hand picked Jake to carry on in his inability to do it, it also seems that you always enter on the same date and time in 1958 and when you return to the present you’ve always only been gone for two minutes. When Jake becomes aware that this is not only possible but perhaps probable, he has to ask himself if he can, should and wants to do this and as Jake is stepping through that portal into 1958 he’s still asking himself that question. But the questions he’s asked become irrelevant as he navigates his way through the past to make the USA a better place by saving the life of JFK. What dangers will he face in a place where he’s not been born yet, what will befall the people he meets and what are the consequences of disturbing a past that’s already been written, and what do you do when someone you love is someone you never should have met.
Stephen King gives us an alternate lesson in history, where he’s gone to great detail to research and relate. It’s a great question and he makes those of us who were there, remember and those of us who’ve only read about it, see it in live Technicolor.
He gives us both unremarkable and unforgettable characters to help tell his tale and he gives life to them all in wonderful detail. His protagonist Jake/George is a stand out among standouts in this novel, but he has a lot of help in the characters that he befriends, characters that will stay in the minds of his readers long after the Afterword is read. The dialogue is easy to read and understand as he brings to life the nifty fifties and the sexy sixties, he however gets very wordy at times and since I’m not an avid reader of this author I don’t know if it’s just a King-esque thing or not, but I personally think it could have been at least 200 pages shorter, that however did not make me at any time want to put the novel down, it did make me tend to skip over certain passages.
All in all this is a novel that you have to put in your must read category, it tells a story that’s been history for a while but it gives us a fly on the wall look at the characters who played a significant role in the event as well as those who could have played a minor role in this very tragic and very theorized episode in our past not only as an individual or as a country but in a global way as well.