When I finish reading a novel, especially one that I have become consumed by, I find it difficult to move onto another novel right away. I enjoy reading, so taking time off from reading isn’t an option for me. So, I have discovered that reading a collection of short stories is a great way to cleanse the reading palette before I begin another novel. It allows me to switch gears and be more receptive to a different writing style and different genre. Stephen King is a master at his craft and I usually enjoy whatever I pick up with his name on it. This collection of stories does not disappoint. There is little supernatural play in these stories. You do not need supernatural twists when human nature can be the most disturbing story to tell.
The first story, 1922, takes place in rural Nebraska. A farming family struggles to make ends meet. The father convinces his son to murder the mother. Their plan seems flawless, but life seems to have a way of punishing them for their crime. Legal troubles, neighborly feuds, forbidden love, property loss, guilt plague Wilfred and Henry.
Perhaps the most disturbing of the collection is Big Driver. Tess, a famous author, gives a speech at a library and ends up stranded on her way home. What she meets is a nightmare. Betrayal, deceit, rape, fight for survival, revenge. The worst of human nature. After becoming a victim, Tess is determined to survive and allows vengeful Tess to take over. What is worse – the merciless and disturbed criminal or the vengeful personality that breaks out of the victim? Gruesome details and realistic scenes will make any reader have to take a break after this unnerving tale.
Fair Extension is the best in this collection, in my humble opinion. The story follows Dave Streeter, a man who has worked hard and honestly all is life but has a fatal cancer diagnosis. He happens to pull over on the side of a highway to vomit and ends up talking with a mysterious figure who offers him a life extension. No more cancer, no more pain, no more bad luck. The price? Someone else has to bear the negative weight and 15% of his income for 15 years. So who will take on the negative energy? Dave’s “friend” from high school, Tom Goodhugh. The good-looking and athletic kid who stole Dave’s girlfriend, Norma, and went on to have a picture-perfect and prosperous life in the same neighborhood as Dave. Blessed with beautiful children and Norma by his side, healthy Tom also has a successful business and is reaping the rewards of financial success. Dave, who tutored Tom in high school, completed assignments for him, and dealt with losing Norma, is battling cancer and living a meager life no matter how hard he works. This extension from the mysterious man changes everything. Dave’s appreciation for his new-found health turns into greed for more and a distorted sense of “you had it coming” for Tom. This tale had me gobbling up the pages and wanting more at the end, just like Dave.
The next story in the collection raises the question on if you can truly know someone, even after decades of marriage. A Good Marriage tells the tale of Darcellen and Bob Anderson. He is an accountant and avid coin collector and she becomes a housewife who takes care of their two children, now adults, and their home. They live happily in an unexciting, suburban lifestyle. With Bob out of town on business, Darcellen goes into their garage looking for batteries for the TV remote. Stubbing her toe on a bow, she discovers something that turns their quiet life into turmoil. A box hidden in a secret compartment contains ID’s from a woman who was murdered. Could it be Bob? Could this be the only one or are there more? What could cause safe and quiet Bob to loose control like this? If Bob is a murderer, what will she do about it? How can she live with someone like that? You’ll have to read this one for yourself to find out!
The last story that Stephen King includes in this book is Under the Weather. it is told from the view of a man who lives in a city apartment building with his wife and her dog. Throughout this story, the wife is ill and bedridden. The doorman says that some of the apartments are reporting a foul odor and that exterminators will be coming around to suspected apartments to check things out. Could it be a rat or something else?