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Lisey's Story

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Lisey Debusher Landon lost her husband, Scott, two years ago, after a twenty-five year marriage of the most profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey had to learn from him about books and blood and bools. Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went--a place that both terrified and healed him, that could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it's Lisey's turn to face Scott's demons, Lisey's turn to go to Boo'ya Moon. What begins as a widow's efforts to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited. Perhaps King's most personal and powerful novel, Lisey's Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.
(front flap)

513 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2006

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About the author

Stephen King

2,691 books819k followers
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,286 reviews
Profile Image for Nicholas Sparks.
Author 439 books224k followers
September 10, 2012
It's a "love story" done "Stephen King" style and so perfectly done that my first thought after finishing was to read the novel a second time. The characters are so genuine and universal that everyone will love them, and the story is both magical and heart-breaking at exactly the same time.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
795 reviews3,617 followers
February 26, 2023
A very personal, slow, and calm tale

A rare case of an emotional King
King wanted to try something new and autobiographical at the same time, it reminded me of his experiment with telling a love story in one of The Dark Tower novels, I just can´t remember which one it was.

Autobiographic inspiration
There is not much happening and many will find it unsatisfying and boring, because this is one of the most personal novels King ever wrote. It´s a reflection of the time when he recovered after being seriously injured and thought about what might happen if he dies, what stays if he is away forever.

What stays after one is gone
Death and mortality are important topics in his short story collection The bazaar of bad dreams too and one of the key elements it´s dealing with is the shadow and reverberation a human leaves in the mind of loved ones, the house he lived in, and possibly a bit more.

Twins, siblings, and lifelong couples
Especially in lifelong relationships, 50, 60 years, or even more, there is already this permanent physical proximity, two heads with brains we know nothing about so close together, soulmates each night for hours next to another, resulting in many deja vus, similar dreams, many things one couldn´t explain with science and many old couples talk about. Or the intuitions of twins, old couples too, if one dies or gets injured.

Would be snobby to say no to eternity
One question I was left with after finishing this novel is, once again, what may stay if one goes. We know nothing about this universe, our own body, anything, so it would be a bit too arrogant to say that there are no more dimensions, no parallel universes, that it´s not all a simulation, and that death is eternal, nothing comes after and that reincarnation is impossible. I´m practicing active agnostic nihilism, I just say that I don´t know and believe nothing.

But I´ve visited many creepy places in my life and must say that, highly subjectively, there could be something behind those layers of reality we can´t pass.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
643 reviews4,264 followers
May 22, 2021
“I loved you then and I love you now and I have loved you every second in between."

This is a book about Lisey Landon, the widow of a famous author, Scott Landon. There are two main stories within the book - that of Lisey's story in the present, and that of her dead husband's life. Lisey is clearing out her husband's writing space in their home which leads to a series of events that force her to recall memories and realities about her late husband.

I loved this book. And I mean LOVED it. Initially, I found it quite hard to get into, but I kept at it and it has really paid off. For me, it hits close to home. The messages it sends about grief and getting over the loss of a loved one really rang true for myself. So many parts of the book just caused me to reread the same section over and over, finding comfort in the fact that we all experience those same feelings.

"Sometimes she'd go a whole day without thinking of him or missing him. Why not? She had quite a full life, and really, he'd often been hard to deal with and hard to live with. A project, the Yankee old times like her very own Dad might have said. And then sometimes a day would come, a gray one (or a sunny one) when she missed him so fiercely she felt empty, not a woman at all anymore but just a dead tree filled with cold November blow. She felt like that now, felt like hollering his name and hollering him home, and her heart turned sick with the thought of the years ahead and she wondered what good love was if it came to this, to even ten seconds of feeling like this."

It also speaks strongly about marriage, and the emotional complexities that make up a long marriage. At times it felt like I wasn't sure if Lisey and Scott even liked each other, but this often appears to be the case with marriage - it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Their love was still there and their love was strong.

The snippets into Scott's childhood were another highlight. Harrowing and heartfelt and heartbreaking and scary... The relationship between him and his father and his brother was so well written. I felt so emotionally invested in these parts of the story. We also delve deeply into the relationship that Lisey has with her sisters, which is truly fascinating.

It's an odd book in that it seems that King fans either love this book or hate it, and thankfully I am one of the former. This has been a true pleasure. I already can't wait to reread this one.

Edit: Reread in November 2018 and May 2021 and loved it more with each reread! Now number 4 in my list of top King books.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books911 followers
September 6, 2020
Stephen King says this is the best thing he's ever written, but I doubt fans would agree. That's not to say it's a bad novel--it's not--but a symbolic romp through the mind of a literary prodigy isn't as relatable as his typical folksy horrors. It comes across egotistical and, occasionally, outright masturbatory.

There is no question that Stephen is a prodigy and I really like the concept that imagination is just a few skips away from insanity. This book seems to be his weird way of explaining what it feels like to be a genius; to have ideas so vivid and words so clear that otherworldly teleportation doesn't seem unfathomable. Is it pompous to write about such things? Sure. But when you're Stephen King, you can--and you can even make it a page-turner to boot.

I do wish Lisey possessed more self-identity than simply being married to a great writer. It's not really "Lisey's Story" - it's a story, written by her husband, for Lisey to read. The novelist, even as a side character, gets all the attention while the wife largely has the role of spectator. I could imagine Tabitha reading the first draft, rolling her eyes and thinking her husband is a big ol' drama queen.

Flaws aside, Uncle Steve writes his @ss off and somehow makes this self-indulgence a joy to read. I didn't devour it like his other thrillers, but I still found it difficult to put down and almost always engaging. Generations from now, when scholars are obsessing over his seemingly-impossible output, I have no doubt Lisey's Story will be King's most-cited work. Not because it's his best, but because it's a satisfying dip into the bizarro pool of his mind.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
March 2, 2019
Reading this makes me think of all the literary critics Stephen King has had to put up with over the years. If a reader does not like his writing, that’s fine, “to each his own” as the saying goes. I’ve been on the outside looking in and in the minority opinion plenty of times, but I can usually see how someone could like a work, or even more frequently, respect the hard work that went in to creating a published book.

Some of Stephen King’s critics have been nasty, defaming not only his writing ability but his intelligence. I won’t state names and I won’t repeat the rubbish, but it is frequently pathetic. Like a spoiled kid crying sour grapes because he’s jealous. Easy for a literature type or academic to play the high castle card, ridiculing King and his success for appealing to the masses, for selling out, for playing upon the lowest common denominator.

This was exceptionally well written.

King’s prose is clear and imaginative, his style is progressive and resonant with emotion. This is a romance, but a gothic, melancholy novel, full of loss and grief and longing. There is magic realism that touches on fantasy of the Bradbury kind, close to the earth and yet fleeting and peripheral.

Apparently, when King was hit by a car and almost died, in the late 90s, he returned home during his convalescence to see his books and personal items packed up in boxes, having been rearranged by his wife Tabitha. This made him think of what his office would look like after he was dead, with Tabby given the unenviable task of going through her famous husband’s papers.

Lisey Landon was the surviving wife of famous novelist Scott Landon. As the story begins, he has been dead some two years or so. Much of the narrative is internal monologue and remembrances of Lisey’s happier times with her husband. But like all marriages, they had good and bad times and like many creative people, her late husband was a complicated man and with some dark secrets with which to contend. He was haunted by elements of his past and his family was a torturous and dysfunctional type, the kind of childhood that was survived rather than treasured and enjoyed.

When Lisey is confronted with an insane man who wants Scott’s old manuscripts and notes, she is forced to endure a present nightmare while also compelled to relive some of her darker times with Scott.

Psychologically terrifying in a domestic setting, King has demonstrated his great range as a writer. This is unlike any other book of his I have read and interestingly, King has stated this is his favorite. It is noteworthy that the book is dedicated to Tabby and is memorable that the narrative is filled with terms of endearment and with love language between the two. Every couple has their own ways of communicating, some in code and some without saying anything at all. Whether partially autobiographical or not, King has provided an unguarded glimpse into the life and love of two people who have shared and loved and then gone on ahead apart, divided by that singular loneliness that will come for each of us.

Romantic and at times heartbreaking, this is still Stephen King and fans will find his horrific magic present and engaging. Though not one of my favorites, I can see where someone would love this book and I can certainly respect his great talent.

Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books566 followers
October 6, 2019
“She would have thought two years was enough time for the strangeness to rub off, but it wasn’t; time apparently did nothing but blunt grief’s sharpest edge so that it hacked rather than sliced.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Stephen King named “Lisey’s Story” as the best book he ever wrote. It’s a deeply personal story with a passionate marriage providing a strong anchor at its core, which King pulls from his relationship with his wife Tabitha. But, it’s also covers a wide range of themes including grief, addiction, child abuse, and even mental instability. He wrote this story after overcoming his additions in the ‘80s and his near life ending accident in 1999, when he was struck by a Van on a walk. His wife took time during his recovery to redecorate his office. Seeing his manuscripts and effects packed away, was part of the inspiration of this novel.

This is not an easy read and the first third requires considerable concentration. The story follows a widow, Lisey Landon, after the untimely death of her husband, Scott Landon. Scott was a critically acclaimed novelist and King leverages a bit of obscure literary references to set the stage. We are also introduced to the internal language of Lisey and Scott, which is even more confusing due to references to repressed supernatural events. However, the vague references of past events, become all the more satisfying as the story plays out.

Once again, King’s ability to make the supernatural believable is fully on display in this novel. He not only creates his own slang, but the motivation, dialog, and actions are incredibly well thought out. King is at the top of his game in terms of vocabulary, imagery, and storytelling.

“By then the whole world had slowed down, and what she kept returning to—as the tongue keeps returning to the surface of a badly chipped tooth—was how utter smooth that movement had been, as if the gun had been mounted on a gimbal.”

But what really differentiates “Lisey’s Story”, from many of his prior works, is how deep we get into the thoughts and feeling of the MC. This novel is short on dialog and the first half is even short on action. What we do get is way down deep into Lisey’s thinking and her relationships. We get exposed to her inner most thoughts, and the book isn’t even first-person narration. It’s this deep dig into her grief, her fight to deal with a reality that is on the edge of insanity, that makes this novel so special. I can't imagine the intensity of thought it took King to write this novel (and also in the same vein - Gerald's Game).

I wonder if King had dropped the supernatural from this book, if he would have replaced it with pure addiction and mental instability, while keeping the rest of the storyline, if he would have had a real literary masterpiece that his critics could not ignore. I know King does not care about his critics, nor do I, but it would have been an interesting experiment in how the book was received and how it sold.

In the end, I’m glad he stayed true to himself, as it’s a perfect Stephen King novel. He makes the unbelievable believable and connects you to characters in a way few others can. He takes you to a place that we all drink from, and can be as beautiful or as horrifying as we imagine. This is a Stephen King masterpiece.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
October 26, 2021
Lisey Debusher Landon is the widow of Scott Landon, the Stephen King stand-in here, an author who achieved fame in his early 20’s and never let go, soon becoming and then remaining a best-selling novelist. King weaves several time lines, Landon’s bizarre childhood and his relationship with his father and brother, the courtship of Landon and Lisey, an assassination attempt on Landon by a psycho, Landon’s later illness, and the present. Lisey, two years after Scott’s death, is still tidying up his affairs, beset by a scholarly pair from a university with their greedy paws eager for his accumulated notes and unpublished writings. Her relationship with Scott is paralleled by her relationship with her siblings, three sisters, one of whom is seriously deranged, and falls into catatonia after an emotional blow. A present day psycho seeks her out and forces Lisey to confront some repressed knowledge, about Landon and herself.

There is much in here about personal use of language. Lisey uses “smuck” instead of the usual four letter expletive, behavior learned from Scott. The word “bool” figures prominently as well. There are many sayings that probably originated in King’s Maine background. He adds to these, giving the piece some texture. He also fills the mouths of the tale’s psychos with a bit of verbal drool that is never explained. How explain madness?

There are many instances in which King parallels/echoes images across scenes, noting the state of at least two pairs of underpants, faces smeared with blood that resemble clowns. There are repeated mentions of stations of the cross, although it is never really clear that the connection is that deep.

The story is engaging. Too long of course, but what can one do? King gets in his writing about children under stress, a favorite pastime of his. There is otherworldly material here as well that requires willing suspension of disbelief. But this is Stephen King after all. Does one really expect such to be absent?

I enjoyed reading the book. The texture was fun, the references to other artists, musicians, writers. It was not scary the way some of his books have been. I will have no nightmares as a result of reading Lisey’s Story. It is a good read, not a great one.

A few other King Family items I have reviewed
by Stephen King
The Shining
Doctor Sleep
Under the Dome
Duma Key
by Joe Hill
The Fireman
20th Century Ghosts
Heart-Shaped Box
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Debbie.
4 reviews
August 31, 2007
It started out fairly well. Youngish widow going through her brilliant writer husband's papers...maybe it was a thinly veiled biography of King's wife Tabitha? Maybe it would be good.
Its initial promise wore thin after about the 70th time the word "smucking" appeared. After about the 5th time the main character called her sister "Manda Bunny", the promise was not only rubbed off the book, it was replaced with a bit of sandpaper that grated directly against your nerves.
Stephen King could have done wonderful things with this book if he'd not immediately become cloying (Gott in Himmel, how many times did we need to be reminded that Lisey, the main character, and her husband Scott, the brilliant writer, had catch phrases and inside jokes and used the word "smuck" instead of the more satisfying F word? I'd guess at least once every page).
When King tried to bring a somewhat realistic and on its own meaty story (meaty because a story about what the surviving spouse of a luminary goes through after the spouse's death is an interesting story enough, not to mention the meatiness of the mental illnesses he sort of wrote about, like self mutilation and catatonia) into the realm of the supernatural, he didn't seem to be trying too hard. Booya moon? Whatever.
King is ever readable, and the book wasn't without its charms, but it could have been so much more. It could have been a masterpiece, given the theme and given the talent of the writer, who somehow compelled me to finish this treacly mess.
Profile Image for Peter.
2,623 reviews471 followers
June 28, 2022
This definitely was the most long winded and boring book I ever picked up by Stephen King. Lisey reflects about her deceased husband a famed author named Scott Landon. Zack McCool tries to threaten her to give the literary remains to a prof. Scott had an elder brother named Paul. Lisey some sisters. Both families share some strange characteristics. With Scott "blood bools" are associated... the story goes on and on... no highs, no lows, no real horror (okay self mutilation is here), no tension... just going on, like a toxic cloud you try to leave behind. Is there something positive to say here? Well, I definitely wanted to finish it after I quit the book in 2006. It was a hard struggle and took so much time, even with me being much older. Stephen King is my favorite author I read almost everything. This book is my least liked. Oh, on Apple TV is a TV show about that book... I don't want to recommend this book even to the most diehard King fan. Maybe I didn't understand the book but I can say it bored the hell out of me... Sorry Stephen I wanted to like it, but I can't!
Profile Image for J.C..
Author 3 books68 followers
May 9, 2013
Smucking smucking oh my god so much smmmmuckkking!!

Do you know what i mean, babyluv? Can you feel this smucking annoyance towards this smucking book? Sure you can. Every great artist produces a smucking turd every now and again. Smuck the smuckers who think everything has to be so smucking perfect all the smucking time.

annoyed at all the smuckings? Yeah me too. Try reading 300+ pages of that plus other made-up language that repeats itself in almost EVERY paragraph.

To be honest, the last 200 pages I did a lot of skipping. So I cheated, sue me. I honestly didn't care for the characters or the plot, it was not what i thought it was at all. Not only that but I honestly didnt get Scott and lisey's relationship at all, they never seemed real to me. Which is weird cause usually King's characters are fantastic and well developed. Here, not so much. Throughout the whole book I just kept thinking "ok, why is she doing that?" or "ok so now we're in the past-oh wait this is the future! no its the present....but then why is he there?" I understand Scott is some kind of ghost but...WHY!?

Maybe I'm just not imaginative enough to understand. But seriously, this book confused me. I didn't understand any of the characters, and honestly I never got attached to any of them enough to care. And they all seemed so MANIC. Seriously, Lisey and everyone else all seemed seriously crazy, talking to themselves or figures of their imagination or cutting themselves. The only cahracters that seemed different were the sheriffs and deputies of the story, and all of them seemed quite stoic and by-the-book stereotypes. Which, considering King's previous work, is seriously surprising to me, almost to the point of shock.

So I gave this turd two stars. Every great artist deserves some slack (King even says so in his "Author's Statement" at the end of the book), and King certainly deserves that much.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews857 followers
September 2, 2022
"A tale about true love and the nature of darkness and pain. Stephen King returns to earlier glories with this" was my 2008 one-sentence review, which is pretty good, for what I always considered one of my least fave King reads!

2017 review, which is basically my 2008 review with a few extras: "A tale about true love and the nature of darkness and pain. Stephen King returns to earlier themes with this look at the widow of a famous writer recounting their past and her husband's pretty strange backstory as she faces the threat of a fanatic! 7 out of 12! Looks very much a case of the more I read this, the more I like this!

2017 review; 2008 review
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,563 followers
December 8, 2019
A major bomb. & actually strikingly pretentious as well! The search for anything salvageable in this junkyard is an impossible task. You owe it to yourself, invest your time on something better. May possibly tie for worst Stephen King novel with "Insomnia." Or "The Tommyknockers..."
Profile Image for Calista.
3,880 reviews31.2k followers
April 14, 2020
Stephen King has said that this is his favorite book he has written, when asked. It feels like a love letter to his wife in story form. He puts the idea forward that she is the rock in their relationship, which I can believe. There seems to be a few autobiographical similarities between Scott Landon and Stephen King: they are both famous authors, they both did drugs and drank heavily at a time in their career and they both listen to loud music while they are writing. There might be more, and I'm sure Scott is still fictional.

I also feel like this story is closely related to Pet Cemetery as well. There is a graveyard in this otherworld and somehow, it simply feels somewhat connected to that novel. The woods felt like the woods in that story. There is also a lot of grief and loss in this story that reminds me of Pet Cemetery. It feels like a thin veil from that story.

This story is told in the present and through Lisey's memories. We flip back and forth rather rapidly in time. There seem to be about 4 different times at least we are bouncing between. Lisey also has a sister who is mentally ill and she goes catatonic in this story and that is part of the time flip as well. The first 100 pages, it took me some time to get used too. I wanted the telling of it to be more linear, but once I got enough information, by page 200, I was engrossed into the story and I could hardly put the book down.

I think it's an excellent story. It's not my favorite story, but I like Lisey's bravery and heart. She has to face down her past and that isn't always easy. One's past can bite. This is not a horror story, but somewhat of a love story and a fantasy story and a mystery all rolled into its own thing.

There are several villains here. The Long Boy was by far the most terrifying. The other world feels amazing, but also scary.

I have to say that I did enjoy this story. It's different than most of his work. It feels mature and wise, like hard living went into writing this. His best works seem to be about writers, mostly. This is about the people who support the writers.

I'm not sure most King fans will enjoy this one, but if you enjoy Rose Madder and 11/22/63, you might enjoy this one too. It's not the horror that most fans are looking for. I think I enjoy Stephen when he's not writing horror at this stage in my life. I like his fantasy stuff.
Profile Image for Jamieson.
Author 91 books64 followers
February 5, 2009
As I read Lisey’s Story by Stephen King, I am reminded why I love King’s work so much. It is constantly changing, constantly evolving. Each book is a different experiment. Each book is a different tale; yet no two are the same.

King has gone beyond the horror genre with Lisey’s Story and written a, dare I say it, literary masterpiece. Its part horror, part love story, part tribute to a woman’s husband. It’s part creepshow, part romance and absolutely unclassifiable. King has written a novel that, while hard to classify, has a heart that beats at its centre.I keep wanting to speed forward while reading Lisey’s Story.

Normally, when I read a Stephen King book, I can zip through it in two to three days; regardless of size. I just can’t do that with this one, the words won’t let me. King’s prose is so beautiful, so melodic, it’s impossible to speed through, it’s impossible to read as fast as I normally do.It feels like I’m drinking in the words, drinking in the story.

It feels like I’m dancing with Lisey, floating through her flashbacks, her dealings with Zack McCool. But the dance has a dark edge to it, as if my partner will drop me on the floor and trod on me with sharp heeled shoes at any moment. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, or the bottom to fall out.Because I know it’s coming.

In the end, no matter how beautiful the novel is, I know it’s a Stephen King novel and that something grim is going on, something darker is waiting at the edges of my vision for it’s turn to float onto the page like a dark shadow.

It’s just a matter of waiting for it, wading my way through Kings most literary effort yet, and waiting for the monster to show its face.

I don’t understand the many negative reviews for Lisey’s Story. I just don’t get it. This novel is beautiful, heartbreaking and mesmerizing; what’s not to like? I think those who don’t like it are just expecting King to shovel out one more horror book after another; they don’t want to give him a chance to try anything different, anything beautiful.

To the naysayer’s, I say: read it again. Take off the blinders and slip into Boo’ya Moon. Your stay will be far more enjoyable with an open mind and a heart that bleeds.

Profile Image for Becky.
1,339 reviews1,629 followers
April 24, 2009
I've been reading a lot of "New" Stephen King lately, books that I've put off reading because I was afraid that they would not be as good as "Old" Stephen King. I wish I had not, because while "New" King is different, he is still The King.

I listened to it on audio, but kind of followed along in the book too, sort of. Mare Winningham did a good job reading, and after a while I got used to her voices, although I think that she added a bit too much to the story. She made certain characters sound too much alike for my taste, specifically Jim Dooley, Sparky Landon and Amanda Debusher. Amanda was different because she was given a more feminine voice, and no "hillbilly" at all, but the underlying voice was the same, and that bothered me.

Anyway, moving on to the story itself. I wasn't sure what to make of this book when I started it, but I absolutely loved it. Dark and creepy, this one actually gave me goosebumps in a few spots. Listening to the events in Scott's childhood cellar were one of those times. To be honest, that part was scarier to me than the Longboy. I also found the running theme on mental illness interesting. King always has a slightly skewed way of viewing the world, and I thought it was perfectly fitting that he should describe mental illness the way he did in this book. Not as something internal, but as something external, either worming it's way into you, or by calling you to it... and then keeping you there.

But even with all the creepiness, this was really a beautiful story of love and loyalty and trust and acceptance. And sacrifice. A friend of mine mentioned that she felt it was a love letter from King to his wife. I can understand that, but there is a lot more to this story than that. My book has the tagline, "Their love was just the first chapter", and I think that's perfectly fitting for how I viewed this book.

This book is like a patchwork quilt of King's appreciation for the things that got him where he is today. Tabitha King is definitely at the head of that list, but she's by far not the only recipient of a tip of King's hat.

His description of the Longboy, and of Boo'ya Moon in general reminded me strongly of H.P. Lovecraft's writing. Not just his atrocious beastly creations, but also Lovecraft's theory that sometimes what's left unseen and unexplained is far scarier than explained phenomena, regardless of how awful it may be. In this, I felt like King was paying homage to what he grew up reading.

He also makes reference to his own creations, Derry, Castle Rock (which in itself is a homage to William Golding's "Lord of the Flies"), Dark Score Lake, Norris Ridgewick, and of course, there were several ties to the Dark Tower and The Talisman, specifically the phrase "Light out for the territories". Scott's ability to "boom" to Boo'ya Moon is reminiscent of Jack's ability to shift from the Territories to this world in "The Talisman".

All in all, I really enjoyed this story. I look forward to King's next book. I will certainly not put it off as I did this one and "Duma Key".

BOOL! The End.

Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,757 reviews755 followers
October 26, 2019
This book is just so stunning. Every time I read it I’m absolutely blown away. It’s devastating and heart wrenching and terrifying all wrapped up in one beautiful package. King really knows how to depict grief, I could feel Lisey’s grief reaching out through the pages and punching me right in the gut and it HURT so good! That’s the first thing that makes this book so excellent to me, King really makes you feel what the characters are feeling whether it’s grief or happiness or terror. The second thing is the characters. Not only is Lisey one of my favourite female King characters but then you have Amanda as well who is incredibly amazing and just adds that little something extra to make this book perfect!
Profile Image for Franco  Santos.
484 reviews1,343 followers
February 24, 2019
Excelente novela. Es una novela diferente de King. A muchos no les gustó por esperarse una historia llena de terror y asquerosidades, y esta no es tan así. Es un relato repleto de tristeza y desolación. Principalmente, trata sobre la pérdida y la soledad. Lo que más me encantó fue todo el misterio, así como los cambios de tiempo y la fantasía, en Boo'ya Moon. Los personajes están muy bien logrados y la trama es profunda y ágil.
Profile Image for Kenny.
494 reviews862 followers
October 13, 2022
Sometimes she'd go a whole day without thinking of him or missing him. Why not? She had quite a full life, and really, he'd often been hard to deal with and hard to live with. A project, the Yankee oldtimers like her very own Dad might have said. And then sometimes a day would come, a gray one (or a sunny one) when she missed him so fiercely she felt empty, not a woman at all anymore but just a dead tree filled with cold November blow. She felt like that now, felt like hollering his name and hollering him home, and her heart turned sick with the thought of the years ahead and she wondered what good love was if it came to this, to even ten seconds of feeling like this.
Lisey's Story ~~ Stephen King

Nobody tells a story quite like Stephen King; King ~~ along with my friend Thomas ~~ rate Lisey's Story (2006) as their favorite novel of his. In fact, it was Thomas who selected this as my Big Book Read in October of 2021. Lisey's Story is a powerful and engaging read.

As is often the case, Lisey's Story is a rehash of themes King has used in previous books. He's done the woman-cornered-by-a-monster plot before; he's done a lot of abused woman turns into a Fury stories, and he's done the writer-as-a-protagonist plot before. But, only Stephen King can so shamelessly reuse his ingredients so successfully. To be honest, Stephen King can craft and re-craft amazingly fine prose even on his worst days.

Yes, I'm relatively new to the Stephen King banquet. I've mostly read his early writings, and some of his middle period writing as well. But, I've liked all of them far.

Now, back to Lisey's Story.


People who’ve never read Stephen King think I’m crazy when I say he’s a marvelous writer of love stories, but it’s true. That’s the way I’ve always found it to be with him.

Many have pointed this out before me, but it bears repeating: Lisey’s Story is a love letter to King’s wife Tabitha. Lisey’s Story is focused on big themes ~~ love, grief, and the inner workings of a long, happy, but sometimes difficult marriage ~~ and yes there is that super natural element as well. The story follows the widow of a famous and successful novelist, and explores two intertwined narratives: Lisey’s present life as she cleans out her late husband Scott’s writing area and starts getting harassed by a crazy fan of his, and as a result of this stalking, repressed memories of Scott’s dark past start resurfacing, and Lisey goes on a treasure hunt spanning multiple worlds, allowing her to deal with her terrorizer, uncover Scott’s childhood secrets, and move on from his death.


There are many autobiographical elements in this book. The darkness lurking behind King for a good chunk of his marriage was his drug addiction, while in Lisey’s Story, Scott’s monster is an unimaginable horror from a different dimension. This alternate world is referred to as Territories twice, so it’s probably meant to be the same level of the Tower as in The Talisman.

What makes Lisey’s Story stand out from other works of Kings is the amount of introspection and absence of action and dialogue. It is Lisey’s story, after all, and all you experience is seen through her eyes and through the lens of her memories.


Lisey's Story delivers a huge, epic story, full of invented language, internal monologues, dark secrets, true love, meditations on marriage and mortality, violence, with touches of the surreal. But in the end it a Valentine from a guilty lover, to the woman he loves.

Profile Image for Becky.
1,339 reviews1,629 followers
April 24, 2016
This book was selected for my NJ Bookclub because it has similar themes to our last read, Bag of Bones. I've previously read this one, or listened, because it was an audiobook, and so this time I read-read it.

I loved the experience of the audio - the reader is great and the audio definitely brings the story to life in different ways than the text itself does, but reading this with my very own eyeballs is rewarding in its own way. First, it's a more active, involved experience. Audio is very passive, right? You can listen while you multi-task, and it will go on without you if you get distracted or zone out or fall asleep. But reading this required me to really be present in the moment and in the story, and especially the writing, so I noticed things that I hadn't (or had and then forgot) the first time around.

For instance, the writing. This is a very... flowy book. It's structured in such a way that the past and the present and memories and dreams are kind of intertwined and flow into and around each other. (Which I guess is what intertwined means. Whatever.) The writing will just kind of end, no punctuation or completion, and pick up in the next segment or section with a continuation from a different perspective or in memory or in a different time. It shifts between past tense and present tense and 3rd person limited and 3rd person omniscient, and all storylines and times and perspectives meld together. So you have to keep up to know where and when you are in the story... or maybe don't and just go with it.

In the text, as I'm not usually a header reader, my eye just naturally skips the breaks and continues on. It's not the same kind of unbroken narrative as say, Cujo, which would have definitely benefited from some segmentation, but it almost feels as though it is at times. It has a kind of pseudo-stream of consciousness mixed with magical realism feel that works for the story, without feeling annoyingly tedious as I usually find both SOC and MR to be. So, good job there, King.

But another thing that I noticed is that there are a lot of connections and links to his previous work, meaning his stories, characters, and themes, and to his own life. This is both good and bad. Someone who is very familiar with King's work might feel that it is either self-derivative or chock full of fun easter eggs and connections, depending on how charitable they are feeling at the time. I can see it both ways, but I tend to lean more toward the charitable side and I can enjoy the influences his previous work had on this story.

For instance, for me, Andrew Landon had undertones of Mark Torrance (Jack's father) from The Shining. That he was cognizant of his abuse and had, in his mind or in reality, a reason for it, makes him a more understandable and relateable character for me, but I couldn't help making that connection because of the very similar feels of the characters when they were in their hectoring rages, and especially given the love that their sons both held for the men who hurt them and their family members.

Lisey, though VERY different from her, had a bit of Dolores Claiborne in her nature, if only the stubbornness and backbone to wade through fire to help the people she loves. Lisey and Dolores don't have much else in common, but that stalwart quality makes up for a lot. We talked about Lisey a bit at my bookclub meeting last night, and it was pointed out that Lisey is one of the few women that King has written who doesn't really DO anything. She doesn't really have her own thing - she's purely there to be a support system for her sister, and then later her husband. And even after he's gone, she still does nothing but exist until she starts to clean out his office, and then the floodgates open and things start happening that makes her act accordingly. But, she's not a philanthropist, she doesn't volunteer, she's not on committees or boards or even have any hobbies that I can tell. She's really just something of a shim - the piece that holds something else stable and in place.

Scott Landon had a bit of Jack Sawyer and Mike Noonan and King himself, and even though we never get to see Scott while he's alive (outside of flashbacks and memories), he is one of my favorite characters. His history and his story, and his methods of coping and adapting and his refusal to carry on the cycle of this madness, is commendable. I found myself often wishing that I could just give him a hug and comfort him, because he lived through so much hurt and pain. It made me feel a bit better that he found happiness and support and understanding in Lisey, even IF she had nothing outside of that role. That sentence probably sets the woman's lib and feminism movements back about a bazillion years, but I'm not sorry about it, and I'm not taking it back. He is such a tragic character that I'm happy he got to be happy for a while.

Anyway, I'm rambling on now. What I'm getting at is that while I can see how he borrowed bits from his previous characters, I liked it more than not.

I really liked how the story was actually plotted around Amanda (even though it's not MUCH of a plot, if I'm honest) while it's the history of Scott's life and Scott and Lisey's marriage that actually helps her recover. I loved the interactions of the sisters and how real and fucked up they were. Their names bugged the hell out of me, though. Jodotha? Cantata? Darlanna? Amanda's daughter Intermezzo? And Good Ma (mother) and Dandy (father)? Who would call their parents that? Weird.

I still found the most creepy and disturbing scenes to be Scott's history of his father and brother, and they were, if anything, more heartbreaking this time around. It was easy for me to put myself in the place of a little boy having to deal with this stuff - trying to help someone who was into the bad-gunky, and I am somewhat in awe of the fact that he made it through and managed to move past it, while living with it.

The concept of belief vs reality, or even of belief SHAPING reality is a strong one in this book. Boo'ya Moon is a kind of canvas place which seems to both exist on its own and yet also be whatever it is needed to be. It's got a dual nature just like everything else. In the light, it's healing and calm and something of a relaxing retreat.... but when darkness falls, it turns malevolent and threatening. Even in its lighter nature, it's dangerous though. Too much of a good thing always is. Boo'ya Moon is like the rooms that many of King's characters retreat to in their own minds to protect their innermost thoughts and selves from outside threats. But in this case, it's a real, or real enough, place that can actually hide and protect physically as well as only mentally when needed. Though the question of whether it's really real, or if it's only manifested because of expectation - shared delusion? - is one that I can't answer.

This book is definitely one that makes me think - about the nature of love and how much of oneself it is safe to give to another, and how far we will go to help those we love. It was asked last night whether we, at the bookclub, would have stayed with someone like Scott. I had to think about it for a bit, but not long. If the fantastical element (Boo'ya Moon and the bad-gunky, etc) were removed, and it was just mental illness, would the question still be asked? I'd like to think not. We love who we love, and in doing so we accept them, flaws and all, and we help battle through the hard shit together. We become two.
Profile Image for Cody | CodysBookshelf.
724 reviews210 followers
June 8, 2021
2021 Update
Still one of my favorite King novels! I really took my time rereading this, and the experience was even better than before. A perfect blend of romance, horror, and fantasy, Lisey’s Story isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s a beautiful and aching statement on trauma and loss and love.

2018 Review

Stephen King has broken my heart. While he often writes of the nature of grief and loss, in no novel or short story does he do it more effectively than in Lisey’s Story: a mature and delightfully strange look into the mourning process.

Lisey Landon, widow of two years, must begin finally moving out from under the memories of her husband, famous novelist Scott Landon. It begins in his study, when she is cleaning out his papers; it ends in an inverted and mysterious version of our world.

This was my second read of this particular book. My first time was when I was a high school freshman, at age 14. I liked it then, but much of it went over my head. In the intervening years I’ve lived a little and grown up and experienced life’s little beauties and been dealt serious loss. Though I’ve never been married, I lost my best friend of seventeen years, last year. At one point in the narrative Lisey remarks on the telepathy that forms between two people after years of closeness. I feel that. I’ve been there. Perhaps my emotional connection to this story amped up my enjoyment of it, but I really don’t think so; this is simply damn fine writing. It is King at his most literary, his most generous, his most emotional. The scenes from Scott’s childhood are among the author’s most frightening, the quiet moments of Lisey’ contemplation in Scott’s study some of King’s most nuanced.

Stephen King is a talented writer, that much is true, but I feel this novel is from another world. Booya Moon, perhaps, or something much like it. In fact, I loved it so much I am now declaring it my favorite King book, and I’ve revised my top ten list:

1. Lisey’s Story
2. Revival
3. The Dead Zone
4. Needful Things
5. 11/22/63
6. Pet Sematary
7. The Green Mile
8. The Shining
9. Duma Key
10. The Dark Half
Profile Image for Red Fields.
285 reviews
July 22, 2007
This is the first King I'm reading in about 25 years.

ETA: I don't really like it much. I had it on my TBR list since it came out. I suppose I read a good review of it somewhere. I'm almost 100 pages in and feh. Not much has happened and while I don't dislike the protagonist I find her kind of vapid and not interesting. There is way too much made up language that is DUMB. So that doesn't leave much, IMO.

I'm stopping at page 320. I am not wasting any more of my time on this. It's waaaay too long. I no longer care what happens.
Profile Image for joyce g.
300 reviews40 followers
March 31, 2017
A love story. A Stephen King love story. Curious what color is your pool?
Profile Image for Brian .
414 reviews5 followers
June 9, 2016
“There was a lot they didn’t tell you about death, she had discovered, and one of the biggies was how long it took the ones you loved most to die in your heart.”

Scott still speaks to Lisey, in her mind. He tells her to follow the clues, follow the bools. Her husband, a famous writer, died a few years ago. She spends nights remembering him, remembering his life, his near death, his other world.

“I think most kids have a place they go to when they’re scared or lonely or just plain bored. They call it NeverLand or the Shire, Boo’ya Moon if they’ve got big imaginations and make it up for themselves. Most of them forget. The talented few – like Scott – harness their dreams and turn them into horses.”

As Lisey struggles to cope with the loss of her husband, and the memories, and the constant drawing into something else, something more, something she will learn is her story, Lisey’s story, a maniac comes into her life and threatens her with a dead cat in the mailbox; he wants Scott’s stuff; he considers himself one of Scott’s biggest fans. Life never says “enough” it seems, one thing after another. Her sister has a nervous breakdown and cuts her body everywhere and ends up catatonic. Lisey has to help her. In King’s world, everything the characters go through connect; they all have a greater purpose.

The poetic language pleases the heart. King mentions in the end he wrote this from the heart and not the head. The story has some serious autobiographical similarities, yet strong points of differentiation. One point being King never knew his dad, and Scott’s dad plays a major role. These may be symbolic representations. King has written and talked about his absent father, and how much that hurt him (cut him).

The story is violent, shocking in violence (in honor of King I dropped “shockingly”), yet contrasts with the beauty of the language and the love story. This is love story, King-style. A major theme is cutting, mutilation of the body, by self and others. Insanity also weaves into fabric of the story – Scott’s dad, Scott, Scott’s brother, Lisey’s sister. Stephen King confronts the issues we don’t want to talk about. He confronts the darkness. He speaks out for those nobody wants to hear, those too ashamed to speak up, those with secrets too taboo for confession.

Scott’s imaginary world, Boo’ya Moon reminded me of Fairy Land in George Macdonald’s Phantastes and, in fact, adapts that as a nickname. You will want to walk the tropical beauty by day, but don’t come around at night; all becomes poison and the Laughers come out, and other things of which death would be a better meeting. Scott went to Boo’ya moon for his ideas, a place he spent to break from reality and write his stories. Psychologists, I learned in a class once, might call this “psychological flow,” the state of mind people experience when they perform certain activities, such as singing, writing, playing an instrument, or sports (he’s on fire!).

The first half or so of the book had low energy. I almost didn’t get through to the second half. About forty-seven percent or so, things peak. They don’t pick up, they peak. The first half seemed to me like placing the pieces in a chess game. The second half seemed like a completely different game altogether, like a Roman Gladiator fight or something.

King has said the book claims his favorite spot for those he wrote. I believe the book claims the most important of all I’ve read of his works. I’ve never read Dolores Claiborne or Rose Madder (and other reviews mention these books). The book will continue to speak his life after he leaves the living world. Did he write this for his readers, or for his wife, who knows him the way Lisey knew Scott, and still loved him for him and not for his books? I warned my wife once. I said, “Babe, I’m going to cry the day Stephen King dies if I’m still here.”

The world will cry.

Profile Image for Joanne Harris.
Author 96 books5,664 followers
April 6, 2018
I always reserve a palate-cleanser for myself every time I finish reading the longlist for a literary prize, and this time, Lisey's Story was it. Compelling in spite of its slowness, and coloured with nostalgia, tenderness and loss, this is primarily a love story, with some vintage King touches thrown in (to be honest, those touches were interesting, but far less so than the love story, which was genuinely moving and new). The journeys into other worlds, the madman on the rampage, the stories of unhappy, abused childhood, even the stuff about writers and their divided attitude towards inspiration, which I've always found compelling - we've all had those before. But here there's an added ingredient, which I enjoyed very much: and of course, Stephen King is one of the few men of his generation who manages to write convincing female characters whilst mostly avoiding the pitfalls to which so many more "literary" male writers succumb: read a page or two of Amis or Hemingway, and you'll see what I mean...
Profile Image for Paul.
170 reviews53 followers
July 22, 2021
An exceptionally well written story of loves loss after the death of a partner. And a reliving of life's portions and creations. A love tale of fantasy and other worldliness.
Not as horrific as some King novels but a psychological horror story nonetheless.
4-4.5 stars
Profile Image for Gareth Is Haunted.
317 reviews35 followers
April 14, 2023
A tough book to get into but certainly worth the effort.
I lost myself in this one eventually and couldn't wait to read on. King's writing is masterful as always, blending horror, fantasy and romance in his own unique way. The characters were complex and believable, especially Lisey and her sisters. The book explores themes of grief, memory and creativity with incredible depth and sensitivity.
I'd highly recommend it to anyone.
Profile Image for Karla.
1,044 reviews226 followers
May 23, 2021

Re read May 2021
story & audio 4 stars**
Narrator Mare Winningham

Just as good as when I read it the first! I’m so looking forward to watching the series so much more, because Mr. king himself wrote the screenplay for the tv adaptation. I wonder what changes he’ll make?! I also love the afterword at the end of the audiobook! Mr. king I too was sister deprived so I get you lol! ♥️
Profile Image for Ken.
2,164 reviews1,322 followers
January 17, 2021
Whilst King will forever be known as a horror writer, constant readers will be aware that he has attempted many other genres.
With this 2006 award winning novel is predominantly a love story, it's somewhat ironic that the supernatural elements that you'd associate with King ended up being some of the weakest parts of the story.

It's worth noting the context in which this was written, King survived a car accident in 1999 and during his stay in hospital wife Tabbath decided to redesign his studio. Seeing all his books boxed up gave King the image of what the studio would look like after his death.

King has used inspiration in his personal life before, after fans bulked his fantasy novel The Eyes of the Dragon which led to him writing Misery.

The two incidents lay the foundations of this book as the main protagonist Lisey Landon is mourning the death of husband and successful author Scott.
As she is cleaning out his writing area Lisey is inundated with requests of possible unpublished manuscripts.
One such phone call from a guy calling himself Zack McCool disturbs her as he starts issuing threat that he'd be forced to hurt her.

If the book had solely been just these sections then I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more.
The grief that Lisey is experiencing alongside the horror of a dead cat turning up in her mailbox made for a compelling and shocking read.

It's the sub plot of Scott's Story that made this novel a slog.
The good parts were the ideas of how writers are able to transport themselves to other worlds which help explain their creativity, the reader also learns the shocking childhood that Scott experienced.
King has created so many memorable fictional novelists that it was odd that I didn't care about Scott, the overly long backstory soon became tedious.

Certainly both an ambitious tale bursting with ideas and one that is clearly very personal to King too.
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