Four stars (of five)
In this somewhat atypical work, King presents the reader with an interesting novel that delves into the depths of the mind and soul. As a young boy, Jamie Morton’s only concern is how to plot plastic soldier battles and wars, as well as play the role of the youngest child in a textbook family. One New England summer, Morton meets Charles Jacobs, the new minister who’s been assigned to their Methodist congregation, and they forge an interesting relationship, mixing life and religious lessons though the power of electricity. Tragedy strikes Jacobs’ life and he suffers greatly for it, soon forced out of town after a crisis of faith. It is only when Morton finds heroin as his new saviour, that their paths cross again in 1992. Jacobs is now a carnival headliner, wooing the gullible with his elusive use of electricity again. With strong dedication, Morton and Jacobs renew their acquaintance as the horrible addiction is sated, with yet more electrical innovations Jacobs has at his disposal. Jacobs is gone yet again and Morton must use this intervention to right himself on his life path. Their third crossing, in 2008, has Jacobs playing the role of a preacher whose fire and brimstone is matched only by his curious healing abilities, again with the power of electricity. Morton wishes to bring an end to their path crossing, seeking to reveal Jacobs as a con artist once and for all. All the healing must come at a cost, one that neither Jacobs nor Morton could have imagined. King at his best, keeping the chills high and the reader anticipating what might happen next.
The novel tells more than the ongoing struggle between two men, as their lives intersect at various points. These interactions show a growth in Morton and an ongoing distancing in Jacobs’ beliefs. King posits that the masses are as taken by religion and blindly accept its power in their everyday life, much as they do the mysteries of electricity. There are some, like Jacobs, who control these religious pulses and are dangerously capable of harming innocent bystanders. Nuanced as the themes may be to some, this theme finds itself embedded into the story from the opening paragraphs until the bitter end. The attentive reader will see King’s attempts to downplay religion as simply a dog’s breakfast, whereby everyone feels they have control over the ultimate answers to the world’s mysteries. Curiously different than much of the King work I have read over the years, this novel seeks to explore some of the deeper meanings life has to offer in unique ways.
Kudos, Mr. King for yet another thought-provoking novel. I always find myself thinking and not simply absorbing the text as the story flows.