Juushika's Reviews > Gerald's Game

Gerald's Game by Stephen King
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Aug 20, 10

bookshelves: status-owned
Read in May, 2010

After her husband dies of a heart attack in the middle of a sex game, Jessie is left handcuffed to their bed, abandoned in an off-season summer home, with only his corpse for company. Without hope of rescue, she must free herself to survive—an effort which takes her back through her traumatic childhood memories. Gerald's Game is in many ways a deviation from King's usual novels. There's no sprawling, here: the bulk of the story is the events of a single character in a single location over a single day; the journeys into her memory also hold to a limited scope. As a result, the novel is comparably short—a mere 400 pages. Furthermore, Jessie's story is more personal than supernatural, with some exceptions (including the questionable inclusion of voices in her head, which repopulate the book with characters and dialog but feel more cliché than convincing, and the specter that haunts—and weakens—the conclusion). The local, personal, realistic story has the potential to do what many King novels do not: provide a tense, tight, and authentically frightening story. If King doesn't usually work for you (he doesn't for me), consider giving Gerald's Game a try.

That said, while Gerald's Game is a successful exception to King's usual style, it never becomes an exceptional book in its own right. Jessie's physical predicament is claustrophobic and convincing, which makes the book authentically frightening but also makes it uncomfortable, if not painful, to read. The many frustrations and flashbacks on her way towards escape slow the book's pacing, so it doesn't have the unputdownable suspense of a thriller. In short, there are moments when the reader wonders: Why exactly am I reading this? Perhaps more importantly—not to the process of reading, but to the reader's judgement upon conclusion—is that Jessie's struggles tie together a little too well. The neat knit of current quandary, past trauma, and the psychology bridging them creates a story of suffering and survival that, even though it avoids a cheap and easy conclusion, never feels entirely real. I often take issue with King's wordiness, huge casts, and excessive length, so Gerald's Game is for me a refreshing, and concurrently much more effective, change of pace. But at the same time, the book never quite satisfied me. It's authentically frightening, but fails to be authentically meaningful, and so I can give it only a halfhearted recommendation.
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