Devin Jones thought he had plans for the summer of 73. He was a student at The University of New Hampshire as was the love of his young life, Wendy Keegan. Both have university jobs thanks to the work-study program and they do everything together. Everything that is except “it.” Devin Jones thought the summer of 73 would go the same way as the summer of 72 had with both of them working on campus, her in the library and he in the Commons Cafeteria. And maybe, finally, after months of waiting and the occasional almost, “it” would finally happen. That was his plan until Wendy announced that she and her friend Renee would be working that summer at Filenes in Boston. That was not the only bombshell she threw devastating Devin. Wendy also announced that maybe the break would do them good as she said “’I’ll miss you like mad, but really, Dev, we could probably use some time apart.” (Page 13)
While he wasn’t anywhere near to accepting it, Devin knew what was most likely the end of their relationship when he heard it. He also knew that a summer of mopping floors and carting dishes was not something he wanted to in the first place. With no Wendy around things would be even worse. Then, thanks to a magazine ad, Devin Jones applied to work at Joyland. The amusement park in North Carolina near the beach is far away from school, Wendy Keegan, and is a chance for Devin Jones to do something entirely different for a few short months. A place that sells fun to those who pass its gates, it also was the scene of a brutal murder long ago.
It is also a place when Devin Jones will achieve redemption in a sense. Author Stephen King has written an incredible and deeply moving novel that tells the powerful story of one man and the lives he touched at Joyland. His actions and the reverberations of those actions fundamentally changed the course of nearly everyone’s life that he came into contact with that summer.
It wouldn’t be a Stephen King novel if it wasn’t called “a horror story” as it is on the back cover synopsis. Beyond the fact that the book is published by Hard Case Crime, don’t let that characterization of Joyland fool you. There is a touch of the paranormal here but it is one that won’t scare you though, by rights, maybe it should just a little. Something unexplained by rational objective thought is at work here, but, it never comes across scary to the reader.
And there is certainly, as befitting the publisher, a complex mystery at foot. More than one and they will be gradually revealed over the nearly 300 page book. That mystery is a major player in the book and yet a small player for much of the novel until the final forty pages that solve the mystery and much more. This is a novel that moves slowly and gradually and takes time to develop the primary theme.
At its heart, Joyland is a book of remembrance of things past. How what we did at 21, both big things as well as little things, will have far different meaning to us at 40, 50 and beyond. It is only later in life, decades later even, when looking back we realize how things changed at different points in our lives. Sometimes we learn dark truths when we are young. Sometimes not until we are far older. But, as the years pass and the ability to see things clearly sharpens by way of hindsight, it becomes obvious how a point here and a point there changed everything. Such is the case here in this slow moving complex tale by Stephen King. Joyland is one of those rare books that will fundamentally mean different things to readers of different ages and different perspectives. One thing that all should be able to agree on is the fact that there is deeply moving story telling at work in the book.
Hard Case Crime
Paperback (also available in audio formats)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2013
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