What if death drives us insane? What if we survive, but it drives us insane? What then?
You might initially roll your eyes at the fact that this book features an old King standby, a frustrated writer, as its main character, but the beauty of King’s prose will soon put that out of your mind and sweep you up in the strange story of Mike Noonan and the lake house known as Sara Laughs. In the aftermath of his wife’s death, suffering from severe writer’s block, Mike returns to the lake house where he and his wife spent many happy days. But there are mysteries afoot that Mike knows nothing about it. This book is really just a masterpiece. It isn’t exactly scary as some of King’s stuff is, but it’s atmospheric in all the right ways, capturing the strange lakeside community to perfection. It’s a ghost story, but one with far more going on under the surface than you’ll at first suspect; this is the kind of book that earns King the literary respect from non-horror fans and it should. It’s a gripping, thrilling, edge of your seat story told with sensitivity, beauty and undeniably complex emotions. I found it to be an absolute page-turner; King’s deliberate pace with the story only makes you want more and more of it. And it’s a book filled with plot twists; I would urge you to read the book knowing as little as possible about it. I started it knowing only that it was a ghost story about a writer and a lake house and I hope you don’t find out any more than that, prior to reading it; if you go into it blind, you’ll find yourself surprised numerous times. King’s done great work with his characters, but I hesitate to even talk about them for fear of giving more away than I should. Mike is a compelling character, constantly struggling, in over his head at the best of times, smart but not smart enough, which makes him a likable main character. Of Max Devore, Rogette Whitmore, Sara Tidwell, I can’t speak at length without ruining things. But King has created one of his greatest characters with a woman who dies in the books opening pages; Jo Noonan, Mike’s dead wife, hangs over this book as only the best ghosts do. She’s like the book she’s in, supremely haunting. 4 stars.
tl;dr – haunting exploration of love, loss and the things that haunt us, this is one of Stephen King’s very best novels, beautifully written, atmospheric and brilliantly characterized. 4 stars.