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Read more about the book here.
**Spoiler Alert: Discussion questions and resulting discussion (in comment section of this post) may contain spoilers.
**Spoiler Alert: Discussion questions and resulting discussion (in comment section of this post) may contain spoilers.
Questions for Discussion
- Please tell us your general impressions of the novel - did you enjoy it? Why or why not?
- Have you read other books by this author? If so, how does this compare to the author's other work? If not, will you be reading other books by Stephen King?
- Jake is the narrator and one of the main characters of the book. He is characterized as a good and decent man, someone who cares deeply for others. And yet, he is willing to commit murder and also make money by using his knowledge of the future. What do these things say about Jake's character? Did his willingness to stretch morality change how you felt about him? Do you think his "bad" acts make him less likable or trustworthy?
- One of the themes in 11/22/63 is about traveling back in time and un-doing the past to change the future. If you could go back to the past, what year would you want to visit and what historical event would you like to change? Based on the idea of the Butterfly Effect, what effects do you think those changes would have on the future?
- In King's novel, Jake has knowledge of the future behavior
of certain people. The janitor's father, who is destined to commit a
horrific crime, is a jovial and well-liked man prior to that crime...but
because of his foreknowledge, Jake sees only a horrible man. If you
knew what someone would do in the future (good or bad), how might that
change your interactions with them in the present? Would you feel
compelled to try to change their behavior before it happened? Would you consider murder as an ethical choice to un-do something horrible?
- 11/22/63 deals with traveling back more than 50 years into the past. But what about time travel into the future? If you could travel 50 years into the future, would you? If not, why not?
- Discuss the significance of the Yellow Card Man. What does he symbolize?
- Jake encounters an eerie resistance to changing the past. He notes that "history repeats itself" and there are certain "harmonies" which weave through his life. At one point another character tells Jake "everything happens for a reason." When Jake returns to 2011 after saving Kennedy, he finds a world much different - and not better - than the world in which Kennedy was assassinated. What do you think - do things happen for a reason? Is there a harmony to our world, even when bad things happen?
- Jake seems destined to be with Sadie, but he must make a decision at the end of the book which changes the course of their relationship. Did you like the ending? Could King have ended his book another way?
I can't really figure out how to use this Mr. Linky, but my link (from yesterday) is:ReplyDelete
I guess I would jump to the last two questions first. I liked the harmony thing, but I didn't think it washed with the late-addition ending of string theory as an explanation. If that were the case, there would not have been any harmonies. I think he should not have mentioned string theory. Re number 9, I wish he had decided to stay with her, in spite of the age difference!
Jill: I'll put your review link up for you :)Delete
I'll be the first to admit I don't really "get" string theory...so that explanation was a bit lost on me and I agree, he didn't need to do that to explain what was happening.
Re: Sadie...I thought the ending was sad, but I do think it was the only way it could have ended. I found it lovely that she seemed to remember Jake, even if she couldn't pinpoint how she knew him...just another one of those harmony type things.
Wendy, thank you for adding the link! Today the Mr. Linky looks like the usual Mr. Linky, so I could have done it. I don't know what was going on before! :--)Delete
I hope we'll get more discussion here in the days ahead! I really loved this book, but then, I love most of what King has written over the years!ReplyDelete
I've thought about what I might do in Jake's position...and I can see the temptation to try to change a huge, life altering event in history. I have often wondered whether or not our lives would be vastly different had Hitler been killed before he started WWII...all the lives that would have been saved is almost mind-boggling. But, I don't think I would want to live in that era at all.
On a more personal note...I wonder about going back in time to save those closer to us. Would you want to go back and change the course of events to save a friend or love one from a tragic accident or urge them to seek medical attention before they got sick? I can think of a couple of instances where I would do that, given the chance.
Here are my thoughts (I’m going to answer each question and break it into two or three comments because there’s a max amount of characters permitted):ReplyDelete
1. Please tell us your general impressions of the novel - did you enjoy it? Why or why not?
I loved, LOVED this story. Although long, I didn't mind it and it was a quick and easy read. I couldn't put it down and read this in a week which was a good sign that I was hooked. I listed it as one of the Top Books I Read in 2011 last year and I sniffled a bit at the end. Maybe I sobbed. Man, I love Jake and Sadie.
2. Have you read other books by this author? If so, how does this compare to the author's other work? If not, will you be reading other books by Stephen King?
I've read 'Salem's Lot, The Colorado Kid, and then listened to The Breathing Method (a short audio, about 2 & 1/2 hours). The Colorado Kid wasn't bad, though definitely not my favorite, although it was a clear example of typical Stephen King "anecdotal" storytelling. It almost felt like the novella was part of a larger story. The Breathing Method was astonishingly frightening, and 'Salem's Lot kept me looking over my shoulder. 11/22/63 wasn't filled with the horror that everyone has come to associate with King, however it continued to reflect the great way he keeps you ensnared.
3. Jake is the narrator and one of the main characters of the book. He is characterized as a good and decent man, someone who cares deeply for others. And yet, he is willing to commit murder and also make money by using his knowledge of the future. What do these things say about Jake's character? Did his willingness to stretch morality change how you felt about him? Do you think his "bad" acts make him less likable or trustworthy?
There is a part of me that feels Jake was able to commit murder because he had a tangible safety net where he could reset it back to the same past. I wondered if that was the compelling security blanket, but a part of me was ok with the choices he made. These were very bad people who did horrible things. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I was fine with Jake taking care of it! I saw him as a protector of good fighting evil, and in that fairy tale perspective, my thoughts on him as a moral character weren't changed.
4. One of the themes in 11/22/63 is about traveling back in time and un-doing the past to change the future. If you could go back to the past, what year would you want to visit and what historical event would you like to change? Based on the idea of the Butterfly Effect, what effects do you think those changes would have on the future?
I go back and forth with this. On one hand, the stupid choices I made in my life wouldn't have brought me to where I am today, but I do hope any changes I would make if I did change them, wouldn't drastically affect the future the way it did in 11/22/63! :)
You've read some of King's work which I have not read yet. Probably my favorite of his is a toss up between The Stand and The Shining - both amazing books. I also really loved the book he wrote in conjunction with Peter Straub: The Talisman - awesome book (although the sequel to it was not one of my favorites).
I also was okay with Jake's decisions - maybe because he made very, very sure before committing these acts. He was definitely a vigilante...and perhaps the bad fallout from that might have been King's way of saying this wasn't really okay - hmmmm, have to think about that. A common theme in King's work is good vs. evil (The Stand is one of the most obvious re: that theme).
5. In King's novel, Jake has knowledge of the future behavior of certain people. The janitor's father, who is destined to commit a horrific crime, is a jovial and well-liked man prior to that crime...but because of his foreknowledge, Jake sees only a horrible man. If you knew what someone would do in the future (good or bad), how might that change your interactions with them in the present? Would you feel compelled to try to change their behavior before it happened? Would you consider murder as an ethical choice to un-do something horrible?ReplyDelete
I always think I can change things. I'd anticipate I would do everything possible to stop negative behavior or actions before it happens, but murder couldn’t be part of the plan for me!
6. 11/22/63 deals with traveling back more than 50 years into the past. But what about time travel into the future? If you could travel 50 years into the future, would you? If not, why not?
I absolutely would love to travel to the future! I'd be afraid to see what happens, though.
7. Discuss the significance of the Yellow Card Man. What does he symbolize?
The Yellow Card Man seemed like a crazy version of a guide or oracle. While it was sad to see the changes and the eventual craziness the role culminates in, I appreciated that the character was a device to create the unsettling and mysterious stages within the novel.
8. Jake encounters an eerie resistance to changing the past. He notes that "history repeats itself" and there are certain "harmonies" which weave through his life. At one point another character tells Jake "everything happens for a reason." When Jake returns to 2011 after saving Kennedy, he finds a world much different - and not better - than the world in which Kennedy was assassinated. What do you think - do things happen for a reason? Is there a harmony to our world, even when bad things happen?
The good ole past is obdurate, that's for sure, at least in 11/22/63! I do think everything happens for a reason and to "go with the flow" is sometimes better than trying to change things. After all, who knows if we really end up fixing our futures? Like your earlier question on whether I'd change anything from my past; if I did, I wouldn't really know I'd be any better unless I experienced living the time and then evaluating the success or failure at the “deadline.” Sounds like a hassle. I'm comfortable with "it is what it is."
9. Jake seems destined to be with Sadie, but he must make a decision at the end of the book which changes the course of their relationship. Did you like the ending? Could King have ended his book another way?
I loved and hated the ending; I wanted Jake and Sadie to end up together, but I understood how it was impossible. I don't think King could have ended it any other way; I loved everything about it!
Like you, Natalie - I would be afraid to travel into the future. One of the main reasons is that I don't think I would want to know about anything bad which might have happened to those I love...and I also would not want to leave behind the people I love. I am a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason even if we don't know what that reason is at the time...so I would be reluctant, I think, to change the past to influence the future!Delete
I'll be back to join the discussion, but I wanted to let you know I also posted information about it yesterday for my readers, some of whom have already read 11/22/63.ReplyDelete
I loved 11/22/63! I've read a lot of Stephen King's books, and this is now one of my favorites. I liked Jake, and I feel like I understand why he made certain choices. I don't think I could have made them, but I understand why he did.ReplyDelete
If given the opportunity, I'd be too scared of the Butterfly Effect to change anything in my past. Life isn't perfect, but my family is healthy and happy. I also wouldn't want to go 50 years in the future. I'd be afraid of what I'd see! I guess I'm just fine where I'm at. :)
I wish I knew more about the Yellow Card Man.
I mourned really hard when I finished this book. I mourned the ending of Jake and Sadie's relationship, and I mourned just plain finishing the book in general. I felt like I lost a friend.
I agree with Jennifer that it would be too scary to change the past, even if it were someone horrible you were eliminating like Hitler, because you wouldn't know what sort of even worse future you might put into place. But if somehow I knew for sure it would be better, say to kill someone, like Hitler or Stalin, I think I would feel I had a moral obligation to do so even though it would be very difficult. I think I'd have to use poison or something so it wouldn't feel so much like *I* actually committed the act!ReplyDelete
I'm interested that Wendy and Natalie would not have Jake and Sadie together at the end, because of the age difference maybe? But it reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife, and I think in some instances, like time travel, it should be justified!
It wasn't really the age difference with Sadie and Jake - I didn't think he should stay in the 60s once he found out that he had changed things so badly for the future...and to stay and then try to bring Sadie with him to the future...well, I didn't think that would work.Delete
I wouldn't rule out that they had some kind of relationship in the present, even with their age differences. But, I don't think Jake could have really explained things to Sadie at that point (she would have thought he was a nut!)
This book was my first experience with King's work and I loved it. I really liked Jake and did wonder how he could live with himself after he committed murder but it didn't make me think less of him since I knew the reason he was doing it. After reading this book, I don't think I would want to change any part of the past - the butterfly effect. I do not consider murder an ethical choice for any reason.ReplyDelete
Kathy: Do you think you'll read more Stephen King now that you've read this one?Delete
1 and 2. This was my second King novel, my first being, Under the Dome, and I didn't like it quite as much as I did Under the Dome, though, of course it was still a compelling read.ReplyDelete
3. I didn't really see him as being bad or good. Was he taking up authority that didn't quite belong to him, was he playing god? I think he was. And I think that comes back to haunt him. He isn't god. He can't know the future, he can't see what the consequences are for each action. His good intentions aren't worth much when it all comes down to it. He tried to be God, he tried to judge the world, to "fix" it perhaps, to make it the way it "should" be, but it turned out to be meaningless.
4. I don't know that I'd want to travel back in time--at least not for a long period of time. It would be one thing to spend two or three hours in the past, observing, watching, etc. Quite another to have to stay there for any real length of time.
5. That was actually the premise of a YA novel I recently read, The Predicteds. While it's tempting to think we'd all want to know, I'm not sure it would be. Because while some would want to try to "change" them or "influence" them, many others would be just like Jake and want them dead now.
6. I don't think I'd like to travel to the future either. I think it would be even more overwhelming and hard-to-take.
8. Yes. I think all things happen for a reason.
9. I didn't love the ending, but I didn't hate it either. I don't think he could have stayed in the past without consequences. It would be very, very hard to do so, very limiting, very frustrating. It would make every decision, even little decisions that you make each day, become too much to handle. And I am not sure if she could have gone back to the future either.
I have Under the Dome in my stacks - I really need to get to that one.
I agree, Jake was "playing God" and I think the message in the novel is that is never a good idea.
I just could not see Sadie living in the future with Jake - her mindset was so in the past and, let's face it, today's world is overwhelming for us a lot of time, can you imagine how it would have been for Sadie?
I agree. While I think it would be tough to go back and live in the past--that there would be some BIG adjustments you'd have to make...I think it would be even tougher to jump to the future. I think it would be too overwhelming. I can't help but think of what happened in Back to the Future 2 :)Delete
Hi can any body tell me what the very last three lines:ReplyDelete
January 2, 2009 - December 18, 2010
Loved this book
Anonymous - what exactly is your question?Delete
I think Anonymous is asking for the meaning of the last 3 lines, which refer, I imagine, to when and where King wrote the book.Delete
I agree; I've been reading a lot of SK books lately and that seems to be the way he ends each one.Delete
I'm glad you asked this question. The reason I found this site was because I typed into Google "What do the last three lines in 11/22/63 by Stephen King mean."Delete
I'm not really sure if the answers you received are helpful. I agree that he ends some books with his location, so that can easily explain Lovell, Maine. Maybe he has a summer home in Sarasota Florida, but not really sure if that is what the next to the last line means.
But what about the dates? It can't be when he wrote the book because it must have taken him longer than that to do all the research and writing. I keep thinking there is a reason he put those dates at the end of the story, but I can't seem to figure out what January 2, 2009 - December 18, 2010 mean.
Maybe someone has a better theory. Love to hear it.
I am about two thirds through the book...as always King creates characters I love. I have been struggling with the idea of changing the past. I don't think I would do it. I would not be who I am today, if I hadn't gone through the trials and tribulations of my life. I think it is true for any of us. So might it not be true for us as a nation?ReplyDelete
I have not figured out the yellow card man yet.... Will I get it by the time I finish the book? If not, can any of you bring some enlightenment?
I will check back when I finish it...good questions! (btw...I never expected Jake and Sadie to work out long term, though the romantic in me desperately wants it too!).
LOL - my husband also asked me if he would find out about the yellow card man at the end! You DO find out more about him!Delete
I just finished. Not sure if anyone is listening anymore. I loved the book. BUT - I was completely unable to connect with any of the characters. I really disliked Jake in fact and was not rooting for his "mission" at all. I did not buy that he even believed in it. I think part of the reason was that there is too much written about how Kennedy probably would not have been a great president and that LBJ was actually much more effectual than Kennedy ever would have been. I think I would have bought it more had it been Hitler or something, but I realize that would have removed some critical elements for king (like the exitence of a conspiracy theory cottage industry). Anyway, its my first King so maybe I just don't understand his writing style, but all that I felt the whole time was too much anxiety to enjoy any of the "happy" parts if the story. When he described the love scenes with Sadie, I felt like a kid who had walked in on her parents - EW! Just did not connect at all. And I very much disliked the ending. That said, it was a page turner and his deep research kept my attention most of the time.ReplyDelete
Anonymous: I actually wonder if how it ended (ie: how the world turned out by saving Kennedy) was, in fact, a comment on that belief that Kennedy would not have been a great president had he survived. Interesting idea, I think. I wasn't crazy about the ending either. King's writing varies novel to novel - so I would not give up on him based solely on this one. A futuristic book he wrote which was amazing was The Stand (also a chunkster) which I've read 3 times I loved it so much! Thanks for weighing in on the discussion!Delete
A little late here - life! anyway quick bit - will be reviewing it on my site - first King I have ever read - did I enjoy it? well some of it - personally I felt it would have been better about 200 pages shorter:) leave out that un-necessary love affair it added nothing to the plot - too much to-ing and fro-ing from place to place, it felt a bit like an excuse to wax lyrical about old cars! then without those it would have been a tight exciting book - all those extras made it woolly in places, slowing the pace.ReplyDelete
The premise of time travel is an interesting one and its fun to sometimes go there - does the end justify the means? - no - to murder is wrong whatever the reason - to kill in self defence? well okay but to set off back to the past to do so is plain wrong and reckless.I didn't take to the hero because of this, I also found him a trifle shallow and soooo easily lead - the un-necessary girl had more going for her but why was she there at all?
what happened to the janitors family should have been warning enough that you mess with history at your peril!!!! I have aways suspected 'if onlys' we do not know how an alternative choice would pan out so why wish to change it
the arguments that are used against killing unborns and infants - one may be destroying a future ?? (whoever your fancy of greatness and goodness is) works equally well backwards - destroy Hitler and among those millions you potentially save what if a monster of epic evilness was saved, one who wrecks devastation of global proportions? the course of history is the course of history
having said all that I am tempted to try another Stephen King - hoping for tighter structure , it appeared to have some very good writing in those pages and I am always open to the new - might try the Dome next I have heard some good reviews of it.
will try and be in on the ground with The Memory of Love almost finished it
Re: #4 "If you could go back to the past, what year would you want to visit and what historical event would you like to change?" It would be interesting to go back in time and talk to my younger self with advice. It would then be interesting to see 2 different "strings" to know if advice helped. The yellow card man was the most interesting character and in some ways represented the "true course" almost like God's eye when everything was optimized. It seems Jake recognized at the end that the master planner knew best.ReplyDelete
Regarding #5 "Would you consider murder as an ethical choice to un-do something horrible?" I find it interesting that the primary option was murder as opposed to befriending and persuading or trying some psychology. It would be tough to live with a pre-emptive killing.
Finally - loved the book. Thought provoking.
I enjoyed this. I saw, or thought I saw allusions to the Dark Tower novels. Jumping into different whens. How changing time seemed to potentially tear reality apart also reminded me of the Tower, and how "time had moved on". Basically I saw tons of allusions to Kings tower, but this was a masterpiece of it own. I personally dont think Oswald shot Kennedy, and was kinda bummed King went that route. I heard a lot of complaints about the world after he saves Kennedy, but I enjoyed it. LBJ did much more then Kennedy on civil rights, and though some of if was far fetched... I thought it was nothing to bitch about. The end made me sad.ReplyDelete
I really enjoyed the book, the end had me sad but happy as well. To say Sadie didn't play a part in the story is absurd. To me she played the moral compass in his life. I feel both Jake and Sadie needed each other. Funny how Sadies last words were "The way we danced" and flash forward to present time they're dancing to the lillyhop.ReplyDelete
I wish they explained the yellow card men a bit more. Like why were they chosen, why didn't the first one explain the ill effects of time travel to Al. Why would they choose human beings knowing the effects it has on their minds.