Jake Epping is a recently divorced English teacher, teaching GED classes at night. One night while grading papers, he reads a submission by one of his students for an assignment on a night that changed their life. The student is a physically disabled janitor named Harry Dunning who recalls the night he almost died at the hands of his father who also had killed his mother and siblings. Later, Epping is contacted by Al Templeton, who runs the local diner. After having a meal at the diner only a months before, he is shocked to see Al has aged 5 years, and appears to be in seriously poor health. Al reveals to Jake that inside the diner is a portal to the year 1958. Go through the portal and you're taken to a specific day in 1958. Come back, and only two minutes will have passed. Go back again and the past is reset. Al planned to stay long enough so that he could find out who killed John Kennedy, and stop them, but got cancer in the process, and never did. Al thinks if you stop the JFK assassination, maybe the Vietnam War doesn't happen, undoing thousands of deaths. Maybe a ripple effect is created where Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy aren't assassinated, where the Watts riots never happen. Jake decided to carry on Al's project, hoping he can also prevent Harry Dunning's father from committing the murders.
I thought the book was a pretty good read, but as with a lot of Stephen King novels, it could be about two to three hundred pages shorter. The book is never boring, but it moves at a pretty leisurely pace. While Jake tries to adapt to living in the 1950's, he falls in love with a woman, and a small town where he substitutes. As much as gets caught up in that life, he also must set up surveillance on Lee Harvey Oswald, using the notes in Al's notebook, as well as making bets on various sporting events he already knows the outcome. The parts where he spies on Oswald become a bit tedious, and one gets the impression that Jake is maybe not that interested in the case. Another negative point is the fact that he can go back at any time and undo what he did in the past. He may lose the years he spent, but it creates a safety net that robs the story of its consequences. Jake also spends time in a famous King location, Derry. In fact, he's taken back to several months after the events of IT
, and we see several familiar faces turn up. While I geeked out a bit on these parts, they tended to read like fan fiction, and I would have preferred they were left out.
Still, definitely worth reading.