By: Stephen King
# of pages: 528
Challenge: Full House (More than 500 pages)
Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.
I was nervous about reading the sequel to The Shining because I didn’t think it would do the first novel justice. However, Doctor Sleep was a great and well written book that I very much enjoyed. It’s good that King didn’t try to make this novel the same as the first. It does have some of the creepy elements, but I wouldn’t say that it is a true horror story.
The book starts out describing how Danny Torrance has grown into a troubled alcoholic. While summing up how Dan arrived at rock bottom, the narrative also sums up key parts of The Shining, which is good since it’s been 2 years since I read it and I didn’t remember everything. This could also help readers who have never read the first book, but I recommend reading The Shining first.
Although the beginning is depressing, the story takes a turn for the better when he joins an AA group and turns his life around. After that, the story follows his journey as “Doctor Sleep,” providing care for hospice patients in their final moments. But mostly the story is about his relationship with a little girl named Abra, who is similar to Dan in many ways.
The parts where Dan helps his elderly patients “pass on” was part of what makes my feelings about this book hard to express. This past June, I held my grandfather’s hand as he took his last breath. I stayed with him in the long, excruciating last hours of his life. I wanted so badly to give him some peace, but it was hard since he was struggling to breathe and was very restless. In the last 2 hours he fell asleep and thankfully was peaceful when he died. I do wish I could go back and say more, but I did the best I could, especially since it was very unexpected. Watching him die changed me forever. I haven’t talked about it very much. The only people who understand are my mom and sister since they were there too. Nobody else I know has been through anything like that. And reading the parts of this book where Dan holds the hands of the dying and reassures them made me remember and made me appreciate the character.
My overall thought of this book: it’s mature. Part of it is the characters. Dan is mature and Abra is mature for her age. Much of the maturity is Dan and the rest of the characters taking responsibility for their actions. AA is discussed a lot which is great. Dan and a few of the other characters participate in that program. Both Dan and Abra care so much about other people and that is a large part of their motivation for fighting against a great evil. Remember Dick Hallorann from the first book? He plays a part in Doctor Sleep, but I feel like parts of him are embodied in Dan, Abra, and many of the other characters. Dick’s willingness to reassure the scared Danny, become involved in a physically and mentally dangerous situation for people he doesn’t know well, and his outlook on good and evil can be found throughout Doctor Sleep.
I appreciate the fact that Stephen King wrote this story the way he did. It’s incredibly encouraging.
Why I gave this book 5/5 stars: Well written sequel, the characters are great role models while still easy to relate to, interesting action.
Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’d be happy to post a link!