Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

Eight stars

It is always an exciting adventure to read some of Stephen King’s horror-themed works, as they tap into some of his darker side and fill the narrative with wonderfully tangential material. Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job in a Maine town, uprooting his family from their Chicago home. As the Creeds arrive in town, they soon realise that there is more to the house than meets the eye. After meeting the neighbour, Judson ‘Jud’ Crandall, the family agrees to allow him to give them a lay of the land. Jud has lived in his house all his life, upwards of eighty years, so he is well-versed about all the local lore. While warning the family of the dangers of the local highway at the end of their property, he speaks of the local cemetery that many of the children have been using for their pets, hidden up amongst the forested area. Dubbed the ‘Pet Sematary’, this burial ground has many a non-human member of families as far back as can be imagined, with grave markers etched by innocent hands. However, there is something about the area that cannot be properly explained. When Louis heads off to work at the university infirmary, he encounters a young man who has devastating injuries and blames the ‘sematary’, though Louis is sure there is more to the story he is not being told. When the Creeds, sans Louis, head back to Illinois for Thanksgiving, the patriarch holds down the fort with the family cat. Over the holiday, devastating news comes of the cat’s demise, having been hit by a truck. This forces Louis and Jud to make their way to the sematary to lay the feline to rest. When the cat reappears, inexplicably, a few days later, Louis is sure it has something to do with the sematary. Jud admits that there is something to the mystery, as pets seem to resurrect themselves and return to their masters with no logical explanation. Refusing to share anything about the cat’s death, particularly since it has returned, Louis and the family continue living their peaceful life. When an accident sees the young boy die on the aforementioned road, the Creeds are paralysed by grief. Louis cannot wrap his head around it and turns to his wife, who is completely out of commission. Knowing the powers of the pet sematary, Louis must decide if he can risk moving his son’s body from its final resting place to the sematary, knowing that this could rejuvenate the clouds of depression that have started rolling in. Still, there is the x-factor of the unknown, which could trump any goodness that might return. Louis stands at a crossroads, wondering what to do, while keeping the secret of the pet sematary. Bone-chilling in its plot development, Stephen King shows that he is the master of his genre and can pull readers in with his well-paced narrative. Recommended to those who love a good story of thrills and dark plots.

With the recent movie re-release of this classic Stephen King novel, I thought it would be best to try this book before deciding about the big screen. While I was never one who read King in my youth, I have discovered just how addictive his novels can be, given the time to enjoy them. King has a way with developing complex storylines and intricate characters in parallel, enriching the reading experience for those with the patience to wade through his longer novels. Louis Creed is a wonderful protagonist, who has seen a great deal in his life. When he meets Jud Crandall, Louis finally understands what it means to have a great father figure as well as a loyal friend. While Louis is unease about the move to Maine from the early days, he discovers the nuances of the community and the dark secrets about this pet sematary. Offering the reader some insight into the struggles of his family politics, Louis serves as a wonderful guide on this monumental journey. Jud Crandall is one of many great supporting characters, serving as the community’s backbone and lore teller, which serves Louis well, while also leaving him worries about what he might have done by accepting work in Maine. King’s use of a large number of characters serves to enrich the story and offers complex development at every turn. Characters develop throughout and their lives mix effectively, serving to entertain the reader, as King is prone to do. As with many of King’s novels, the story twists and turns, meandering from one topic to the next. While this may be a criticism when lobbed at some authors, King is able to entertain the reader along the way, keeping them transfixed along the journey. I find that the plot develops on its own, inching forward at a pace the reader might not notice at first glance. It is, however, this journey that makes the reading experience all the better for the attentive reader. With regular mention of small things from past (and future) novels, King masterfully weaves his tale while offering nuggets of a deeper social commentary, this time about death and the loss of a loved one. Those who have the patience for such a novel will surely find much in these pages. As with most novel/movie-tv series adaptations, I would recommend reading the book before turning to either version of the cinematic experience.

Kudos, Mr. King, for reminding me just how much I like reading your work. Enthralling until the very end.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: