In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church.

The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs — including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties — addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate — Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

~ Synopsis from goodreads

Stephen King is a master of the hook, always has been. Even if ultimately the book is disappointing (thinking of Cell at the moment), he knows how to bait and hook and reel the reader in right from the start. And in Revival, he managed to hook me in with the very first paragraph, which introduces the two main characters:

Sometimes a person comes into your life the joker who pops out of the deck at odd intervals over the years, often during a moment of crisis.

In the movies this sort of character is known as the fifth business, or the change agent.

When he turns up in a film, you know he’s there because the screen writer put him there. But who is screenwriting our lives? Fate or coincidence?

I want to believe it’s the latter. I want that with all my heart and soul.

When I think of Charles Jacobs — my fifth business, my change agent, my nemesis — I can’t bear to believe his presence in my life had anything to do with fate.

It would mean that all these terrible things — these horrors — were meant to happen.

If that is so, then there is no such thing as light, and our belief in it is a foolish illusion. If that is so, we live in darkness like animals in a burrow, or ants deep in their hill.

And not alone.

Immediately, I knew this book was going to be something. And so, despite a terrible bout of flu, or maybe because of it, I delved into this book and read it in one day from start to finish.

But that’s not to say this book was a gripping read. I didn’t have anything to do and was on strict bed rest and quarantine (to avoid infecting others and to just stop this cycle of flu going on never-ending in our house), and that’s why I finished it so fast. In actuality, I found the majority of the book to be slow and rambling, very well-written, but still rambling, and for about 3/4ths of the way in, I had no idea where the story was going, and what was the point of it. It was only in the sections where Jaime and Charles meet that it looked like something was happening.

That said, character-wise and scene setting wise, this book was aces. I loved Jaime and my heart broke for his various disappointments, I even loved Charles though I had some problems with the way his character developed. I loved all the secondary characters – Jaime’s mom, his sister, his brothers all of them were drawn so beautifully and sympathetically. I felt like I was a part of their family or something. Also, the story from Jaime’s childhood to old age has the feel of a great American novel or something along those lines.

However, all these great elements were just not adding up to a great book. I guess I was just too unimpressed by the woowoo science behind the secret electricity (you”ll get what I mean if you have read the book). If a book is going down the science fiction route, I expect a reasonably scientific explanation of the technology, at the bare minimum, which is just not there in this book.

And so, at the 300 page mark, I was ready to give the book a 6 star review (out of 10), and jot it down as another unremarkable read. But towards the last third of the book, King finally lays his cards on the table, and I had an AHA moment. This book that seemed to be about nothing in particular is actually talking about one of the most fundamental questions posed by civilization.

What really happens beyond death? Is it really a heaven or hell situation like Christianity imagines it to be? Stephen King attempts to answer this question, and his theory is bleak, bleak, bleak.

I am not particularly religious nor do I think that something amazing awaits me after death, but Stephen King’s vision gave me the chills. Let’s just say that I really hope that he doesn’t actually believe in this afterlife philosophy of his and he’s just playing with our minds. Because if he really believes it, then how does he deal with day-to-day life (and death) that surrounds everyone?

Thankfully after all the gloom and doom of the climax, King offers up a sliver of hope:

People say that where there’s life, there’s hope, and I have no quarrel with that, but I also believe the reverse.

There is hope, therefore I live.

I guess the moral here is to live life to the fullest because you never know what’s awaiting you in the afterlife. Goes against a lot of the religious theology out there, so if you have very strong beliefs about religion and the afterlife, this book is not for you.

You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon

  • Dennis the Vizsla

    I probably won’t read this — I haven’t really liked any of King’s stuff since “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” and the first two-thirds of “Bag of Bones” — but I looooove that animated cover!

    • Nishita

      @dennisthevizsla:disqus I agree with you. His earlier books are much better. The later ones seem to have the germs of a great plot, but something just feels a little off about them. Still, he is extremely readable.

  • Great review and even with it sounding a bit slow it sounds like it is worth the wait.

  • What counts as a reasonable scientific explanation for you? My knowledge of science is so slight that I’d probably buy anything if the author said enough long science-sounding words all at once. :p

    • Nishita

      @readingtheend:disqus I am the same way here, Jenny. But here, apart from quoting from one or two obscure books, there was nothing in the way of explanation. I mean the whole thing sounded so strange. The cure is a bolt of electricity to the brain and it apparently cures such diverse diseases as MS, cancer, addiction, hearing loss, and so on. It sounded quite far out.

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