Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


Lisey’s Story by Stephen King








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Stephen King’s latest novel, Lisey’s Story, is about the love of a long marriage, the grief that follows the death of a spouse, and the power that comes from unexpected places. While there are typical King strange world aspects to this novel, fans of his classic novels are likely to be disappointed, and readers who have pigeon holed King as a one trick pony will come away from this book with renewed respect for the author’s skills. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of part 3 of Section II, “Lisey and the Madam,” pp. 27-30:


She keeps thinking about the glass, that smucking broken glass. When, that is, she’s not thinking of how much she’d like to get out of this heat.

Lisey stands behind and slightly to Scott’s right with her hands clasped demurely before her, watching him balance on one foot, the other on the shoulder of the silly little shovel half-buried in loose earth that has clearly been brought in for the occasion. The day is madden­ingly hot, maddeningly humid, maddeningly muggy, and the consider­able crowd that has gathered only makes it worse. Unlike the dignitaries, the lookieloos aren’t dressed in anything approaching their best, and while their jeans and shorts and pedal-pushers may not exactly make them comfortable in the wet-blanket air, Lisey envies them just the same as she stands here at the crowd’s forefront, basting in the suck-oven heat of the Tennessee afternoon. Just standing pat, dressed up in her hot-weather best, is stressful, worrying that she’ll soon be sweating dark cir­cles in the light brown linen top she’s wearing over the blue rayon shell beneath. She’s got on a great bra for hot weather, and still it’s bit­ing into the undersides of her boobs like nobody’s business. Happy days, babyluv.

Scott, meanwhile, continues balancing on one foot while his hair, too long in back—he needs it cut badly, she knows he looks in the mirror and sees a rock star but she looks at him and sees a smucking hobo out of a Woody Guthrie song—blows in the occasional puff of hot breeze. He’s being a good sport while the photographer circles. Damn good sport. He’s flanked on the left by a guy named Tony Eddington, who’s going to write up all this happy crappy for some campus outlet or another, and on the right by their stand-in host, an English Department stalwart named Roger Dashmiel. Dashmiel is one of those men who seem older than they are not only because they have lost so much hair and gained so much belly but because they insist upon drawing an almost stifling gravitas around themselves. Even their witticisms felt to Lisey like oral readings of insurance policy clauses. Making matters worse is the fact that Dashmiel doesn’t like her husband. Lisey has sensed this at once (it’s easy, because most men do like him), and it has given her something upon which to focus her unease. For she is uneasy, profoundly so. She has tried to tell herself that it’s no more than the humidity and the gathering clouds in the west presaging strong afternoon thunder­storms or maybe even tornadoes: a low-barometer kind of thing. But the barometer wasn’t low in Maine when she got out of bed this morning at quarter to seven; it had been a beautiful summer morning already, with the newly risen sun sparkling on a trillion points of dew in the grass between the house and Scott’s study. Not a cloud in the sky, what old Dandy Dave Debusher would have called “a real ham-n-egger of a day.” Yet the instant her feet touched the oak boards of the bedroom floor and her thoughts turned to the trip to Nashville—leave for the Portland Jet­port at eight, fly out on Delta at nine-forty—her heart dipped with dread and her morning-empty stomach, usually sweet, foamed with unmotivated fear. She had greeted these sensations with surprised dis­may, because she ordinarily liked to travel, especially with Scott: the two of them sitting companionably side by side, he with his book open, she with hers. Sometimes he’d read her a bit of his and sometimes she’d vice him a little versa. Sometimes she’d feel him and look up and find his eyes. His solemn regard. As though she were a mystery to him still. Yes, and sometimes there would be turbulence, and she liked that, too. It was like the rides at the Topsham Fair when she and her sisters had been young, the Krazy Kups and the Wild Mouse. Scott never minded the turbulent interludes, either. She remembered one particularly mad approach into Denver—strong winds, thunderheads, little prop-job commuter plane from Death’s Head Airlines all over the smucking sky—and how she’d seen him actually pogo-ing in his seat like a little kid who needs to go to the bathroom, this crazy grin on his face. No, the rides that scared Scott were the smooth downbound ones he sometimes took in the middle of the night. Once in a while he talked—lucidly; smiling, even—about the things you could see in the screen of a dead TV set. Or a shot-glass, if you held it tilted just the right way. It scared her badly to hear him talk like that. Because it was crazy, and because she sort of knew what he meant, even if she didn’t want to.

So it isn’t low barometer that’s bothering her and it certainly hadn’t been the prospect of getting on one more airplane. But in the bathroom, reaching for the light over the sink, something she had done without incident or accident day in and day out for the entire eight years they’d lived on Sugar Top Hill—which came to approximately three thousand days, less time spent on the road—the back of her hand whacked the waterglass with their toothbrushes in it and sent it tumbling to the tiles where it shattered into approximately three thousand stupid pieces.

“Shit fire, save the smuckin matches!” she cried, frightened and irri­tated to find herself so. . . for she did not believe in omens, not Lisey Landon the writer’s wife, not little Lisey Debusher from the Sabbatus Road in Lisbon Falls, either. Omens were for the shanty Irish.

Scott, who had just come back into the bedroom with two cups of coffee and a plate of buttered toast, stopped dead. “Whadja break, babyluv?”

“Nothing that came out of the dog’s ass,” Lisey said savagely, and was then sort of astonished. That was one of Granny Debusher’s sayings, and Granny D certainly had believed in omens, but that old colleen had been on the cooling board when Lisey was barely four. Was it possible Lisey could even remember her? It seemed so, for as she stood there, looking down at the shards of toothglass, the actual articulation of that omen came to her, came in Granny D’s tobacco-broken voice. . . and returns now, as she stands watching her husband be a good sport in his lightest-weight summer sportcoat (which he’ll soon be sweating through under the arms nevertheless).

—Broken glass in the morning, broken hearts at night.

That was Granny D’s scripture, all right, remembered by at least one little girl, stored up before the day Granny D pitched over dying in the chickenyard with a snarl in her throat, an apron filled with Blue Bird feed tied around her waist, and a sack of Beechnut scrap slid up her sleeve.


Not the heat, the trip, or that fellow Dashmiel, who only ended up doing the meet-and-greet because the head of the English Department is in the hospital following an emergency gall-bladder removal the day before. It’s a broken. . . smucking. . . toothglass combined with the say­ing of a long-dead Irish granny. And the joke of it is (as Scott will later point out), that is just enough to put her on edge. Just enough to get her at least semi-strapped.

Sometimes, he will tell her not long hence, speaking from a hospital bed (ah, but he could so easily have been on a cooling board himself, all his wakeful, thoughtful nights over), speaking in his new whispering, effortful voice, sometimes just enough is just enough. As the saying is.

And she will know exactly what he’s talking about.


Lisey and Scott Landon had a great relationship, and a vocabulary with each other that outsiders would never understand (like “smucking” at the beginning of this excerpt.). While Scott’s presence remains strong throughout the novel, this is, after all, Lisey’s Story, and in King’s hands, it’s a well-told tale.


Steve Hopkins, February 23, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the March 2007 issue of Executive Times


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