Revival by Stephen King

A Wench Review

I hadn't read a new Stephen King book in years. Sure, I reread old favorites, but I never picked up anything new. I don't know why. People complained about them too much maybe? I was too in love with his older work to bother with something new? Maybe just laziness? Whatever the reason, Revival caught my eye a few weeks before it was to be released. And I clicked the preorder button on Amazon. 

When it showed up on my Kindle, I was excited and so ready to jump in.

Click through to see what I thought of my latest foray into King's one of a kind mind.

(This review will be mildly spoilery. Be warned.)

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.
This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It's a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe 
(From Goodreads)

Jamie Morton's story starts in 1962, when he first meets Reverend Charlie Jacobs in his front yard. I instantly connected with the Morton family, and once the Reverend was introduced, it was impossible not to like him too. I've always been a sucker for how King writes little boys and their friends and family. It's almost impossible to not connect with them on some level. Throughout the book, spanning decades, I felt the nostalgia Jamie felt for his childhood and family almost too keenly and was this close to picking up the phone and calling my parents and siblings. 

Revival is a beautifully written novel, almost a memoir of Jamie's life and how that one man from his past kept walking back into his life at random (or maybe, not so random) moments. I can honestly say, I would have loved this book even without the "horror" element. I grew up with Jamie, almost AS Jamie, I loved my sister Claire for her epic birthday gift to me, I bonded with Reverend Charlie over talks of electricity, I fell in love with Astrid in my teens, I sweat profusely at my first concert with the Chrome Roses, I told myself I could score some drugs at the carnival, I woke up, naked in the dark, poking myself with a fork in my arm after the Reverend's "treatment" while repeating "Something happened." over and over again. I lived every minute of Jamie's life like I was there. And like him, I was helpless to separate myself from the interwoven threads of my life and Charlie's.

The story really starts, especially for Rev.Jacobs, when he completely, irreversibly loses his faith. His faith which has filled his life with purpose and certainty is completely wiped away by one cruel act of the powers that be. And in that change, his passion for all things electrical is channeled into a terrifying ambition. Where he has no thoughts of consequence.

The best thing about Revival was probably the almost... unsettling feeling of anticipation. That feeling that SOMETHING was going to happen any second. Something horrible. Something you won't be able to turn away from, and not too soon forget. It's my favorite feeling about most thrillers and horror stories. Maybe King describes that feeling best in Revival, when Charlie is talking about his favorite thing.

"You know when the lightning is going to come, because there's a breathless feeling in the air. A feeling of.. I don't know... an unburned burning. You hair stands on end and your chest gets heavy. You can feel your skin trembling. You wait, and then when the thunder comes, it doesn't boom. It cracks, like when a branch loaded with ice finally gives way, only a hundred times louder. There's silence... and then a click in the air, sort of like the sound an old fashioned light switch makes. The thunder rolls and the lightning comes."
That does kind of describe the pace of the book pretty well. 

Revival made me think of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein so many times... it had the same feeling of impending doom. The same fanaticism in Charlie there was in Victor, an obsession that will not end well. (Not to mention a character named Mary, whose mother's maiden name was Shelley, and who named her son Victor. LOVED it.) But besides anything specific, it was the build up, the stages of Jacobs' work, his "experimentation" on regular people.. those poor suckers, his fixation on his goal, that blinded him to everything else, that made him truly frightening. His conviction that everything he did was in the end, for a greater good, and that the few individuals who were collateral damage didn't really matter, was scarier than anything else that happened.

I don't want to give stuff away, not that there is an easy way to explain what actually takes place. All you need to know is, you'll enjoy the sloooow build up as the story progresses. You'll be waiting for something to happen every time you turn the page. It's a fantastic, thrilling read. This is not the only time I've felt a tiny bit let down by the climax of a King story, but it's never enough to change my mind about loving the story. Some stories are so much more than the way they end. This is one of them. The ending WILL leave you feeling hollow, and in despair. And that is the real horror of this story. For a while after you put this book away, all hope is lost. And for a while, like Jamie, you find a friend in denial. So that you can go on with life, and not sit huddled in a dark corner fearing things to come. No matter how preposterous it might seem.

Based purely on how much I enjoyed reading the events in Jamie's life, and the fateful way in which his life intertwined with Reverend Jacobs, I would give this book 5 stars. Stephen King has a way of making an ordinary man's life riveting to read about. From his highs to his lows, to everything in between. Not many writers can make you feel nostalgia for someone else's childhood and family like he does. I got weepy when he met his brothers after years, it tugged my heartstrings to read about how much his newborn niece loved him, this book had so much heart. Which stood starkly in contrast with the almost too bleak ending.

"That's how you know you're home, I think, no matter how far you've gone from it or how long you've been in some other place.

Home is where they want you to stay longer."
King is here to frighten you, give life to all your nightmares and paranoia and worst case scenarios. All hope is extinguished in the simplest of ways. King's main characters are always brutally honest with themselves in the narrative. It will make you cringe that their motivations for certain things can be so petty and selfish, but it's real. And it makes the story all the more compelling. 

"This is how we bring about our damnation, you know -- by ignoring the voice that begs us to stop. To stop while there's still time."

"I owed him double. I'm sure you see that, and I could leave it there, but to do so would be to omit a much larger truth: I was also curious. God help me, I wanted to watch him lift the lid on Pandora's box and peer inside."

I was completely engrossed in this book in a way I haven't been in a long while, despite the ending that I might not have loved, but which reminded me of Classic Who episodes that scared me when I was a child, I enjoyed reading this book IMMENSELY. Small mentions of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Fox Mulder, and the Mary Shelley's Frankenstein feel to it were just the cherries on top! This Wench rates it :


  1. It's hard to say much about this book without spoiling the plot. You'll read more than 300 pages and wonder when the horror is coming, but when it hits, in the last 30 pages, you'll realize how important the slow build-up was to the denouement of the story. This is one of King's most interesting novels in years.

    1. YES! It really is hard to say anything about it without spoiling it! The build up was just amazing. I thought so too!

      (Sorry I saw the comment so late!)


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