In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers.
Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs Jacobs; the women and girls – including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister – feel the same about Reverend Jacobs. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.
Then tragedy strikes the Jacobs family; the preacher curses God, mocking all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. In his mid-thirties, he is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate, he sees Jacobs again – a showman on stage, creating dazzling ‘portraits in lightning’ – and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings. Because for every cure there is a price…
This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe
It’s hard to put this novel into words but if I had to describe it in just one word then it would be, unsettling. Deeply unsettling. As with many of Kings novels, he takes very human concerns or fears and delves into them in such depth and thus produces a novel like Revival. I still can’t decide whether I liked it, felt indifferently or loathed it but it was certainly an interesting and unique reading experience.
The novel follows Jamie Morton, from when he is a child to his adulthood and all the trials and tribulations he faces along the way. We follow Jamie through his adolescence, as he finds a passion for music and starts playing in a band, we read as he falls in love for the first time and we read as he becomes an adult and grapples with heroin addiction. I enjoy novels which allow us to follow a singular character for a significant period of time and we really get to see them develop. King uses that to great effect here and it ties in nicely with the retrospective nature of the story, as we learn that Jamie is telling this story as an elderly man. I feel like Jamie is such a well written character and I really grew to sympathise for him.
While the novel is centered on Jamie, there is another, more enigmatic and sinister character; Charles Jacobs who also features heavily. Jamie first meets Charlie when he is just six years old, they immediately bond and they grow fond of each other as Jacobs shares his experiments with electricity with him. What Jamie doesn’t know however is just how deep this obsession with electricity runs and just how far he is willing to go. Jacobs is one of those quiet but twisted types, where you can’t really be sure what’s going on in his head which is what makes him so scary. While he kind of devolves into a cartoonish villain at certain points, I still found myself creeped out by him and dreaded finding out what his next move was.
As well as the two main characters, I thought the drawn out sense of foreboding was one of the best elements. There was such a high level of suspense and tension whenever Jacobs showed up in the narrative, and these scenes are some of the most impactful.
I also think because the book deals with such real and human concerns like death and grief, and specifically what happens after death that readers will really be able to relate with at least this element of the novel. Regardless of what kind of background or beliefs you have surrounding death and life after death etc it’s interesting to read how King approaches the topic, in his familiar unconventional way.
There were a few things which just didn’t work for me unfortunately, such as the sometimes long and winding monologues and exposition about rock and roll which I just wasn’t interested in. Perhaps the biggest issue I had was the ending which was so hyped up even in the blurb, slated as ‘the most terrifying conclusion’, which sets up some seriously high expectations. Whether these expectations were all the way met depends on the individual but for me, it wasn’t terrifying but it was a pretty dark and warped one, I’ll put it that way.
Overall, Revival proved to be a bit of a mixed bag for me; there were some elements such as the characters and the sense of tension and foreboding which I really enjoyed and some other elements which just didn’t work for me, but I’m glad to have read it anyway and to have ticked it off the list!
Until next time,