Title/Author: Bag of Bones by Stephen King
Publisher/Year Published: 1998 by Simon & Schuster
How I got this book: Probably bought it at a train station...
Why I read this book: It's Stephen King, and he's awesome.
Four years after the untimely death of his beloved wife, Jo, from a brain aneurysm, novelist Mike Noonan is still in mourning—and suffering from writer’s block. He decides to leave his Derry, Maine home for Sara Laughs, the lakeside cabin his wife loved. In the unincorporated, rural part of Maine known as TR-90 (called “the TR” by the locals) that Sara Laughs is part of, Mike becomes involved in the plight of the young and beautiful but poor Mattie Devore, whose young daughter is in danger of being taken away by Mattie’s spiteful father-in-law.
In the meantime, Jo’s presence in Sara Laughs continues to haunt Mike—in more ways than one. Mysterious messages appear in magnetic letters on the fridge, and Mike hears screaming and crying in the night. He begins to poke into what Jo was doing during her last few months of life, and discovers some old secrets about the TR that the older residents of the town would prefer remained buried.
Bag of Bones is not really historical fiction, but King definitely shows his talent for it in this novel. While all the “history” in Bag of Bones is made up, the research that must have been involved in writing the segments about Sara and the Red Tops is considerable. Even the supernatural, ghostly elements seemed shockingly real because they were so cleanly interwoven with the more realistic, “historical” stuff.
It was really impressive that the ghostly interference in Mike’s life—both by Jo and later by Sara Tidwell—seemed totally, well, realistic. Also, King is always talented at character development, but his ability to develop Jo’s character almost entirely through her ghostly interludes is pretty amazing.
The most touching and tragic character in Bag of Bones, at least for me, was Mattie. Though only 21, already a widow, and nearly destitute and living in a trailer, she truly strives to rise above her situation in life. She loves her daughter, Kyra, with a fierceness borne not only of being a single mother but of defending her baby from the clutches of her greedy father-in-law, Max Devore. She belongs to a local book club and strives to enrich herself with literature and art. Mike’s initial judgments of Mattie and Kyra are proved completely wrong when he learns more about them, and he is understandably drawn to them—not only to their physical beauty (3-year-old Kyra is just as beautiful as her mother), but to their inner beauty: their joie de vivre, their intelligence, their kindness.
Bag of Bones was actually just recently made into a miniseries with Pierce Brosnan as Mike Noonan, but I haven’t seen it yet and probably won’t; as soon as I saw that James Bond was going to play Mike, I was immediately turned off. Mike Noonan is definitely not the James Bond type, and using Pierce Brosnan to play him just seems completely wrong. Not that Mike isn’t supposed to be handsome in his way, but not in the chiseled-cheekbones, brooding James Bond way. But if you do happen to see it, let me know how it is!
Anyway, I would definitely recommend Bag of Bones to any fans of the general thriller/horror/sci-fi/supernatural genre. It stands out from other Stephen King books for me because it seems different in a way that I can’t quite define—perhaps because it does fit into all of the above genres. It’s a book that I always find myself being drawn back to—the characters and the storyline are so engaging and well-developed. Definitely give this one a try.
Rating: 4 stars
PS: If you're a Stephen King fan, check out my Stephen King Project on my blog--I'm slowly making my way through all his published works!
Great review!! I've been intrigued by this one since it's more on the ghostly side .. I love a good ghost story! I hope I can read this one soon. :)ReplyDelete
Thanks for the review, Bridget!
It is VERY ghostly!! And in that way is different from other SK novels in that it's not, you know, blood and guts scary, but "things that go bump in the night" scary. :) Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about it!Delete
I feel the same way about this book. I listen to it on audio every few years and it never fails to make me cry and haunt me for days. You didn't miss a thing by skipping the mini-series. It was terrible and Pierce Brosnan was incredibly wrong for the part. He kept going in and out of the Maine accent and it drove me crazy.ReplyDelete
This one is definitely one of the more haunting ones I've read! And I'm so glad I didn't subject myself to the miniseries if it was that bad :)Delete
Gret review! I love SK but haven't gotten to this one yet...will need to soon!ReplyDelete
Thanks! Hope you get a chance to read it soon, looking forward to hearing what you think!Delete
OH wow... I haven't read this book in a while. The mini-series was awful. I don't know... it just wasn't good. Of course then again what King book translates well to screen? I am not sure if you are apart of the group.. but I moderate the Stephen King Fans group on goodreads!! http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/203-stephen-king-fansReplyDelete
I would love for you to stop by!!! I am checking out your blog now!!
I agree that most King books don't translate well to the screen! The adaptation of Christine wasn't too bad, I just hate that they changed things for seemingly no reason...anyway, yes I believe I am part of that group, but I am not very active on Goodreads unfortunately...something I will definitely have to change!Delete
I read this book and loved it! I am a HUGE Stephen King fan. Mattie's situation was the saddest thing ever. But the ending made me really happy! :-)ReplyDelete
And My Anxious Life is right, the mini-series was absolutely horrible. I didn't even watch it after Part 1. Great review. :-)
Thank you! The ending felt very bittersweet to me, but at least it wasn't just a quick here's-the-climax-now-it's-over ending.Delete
im a huge stephen king fan, but i haven't read this book, but i have seen the movie and it was amazing. im sure this book was to "die" for ;)ReplyDelete
You should definitely check out the book, I haven't seen the miniseries but from the comments I've seen here, the book was tons better!Delete
I really do love this book, and I tried to watch the mini-series, but the casting was so wrong that I just couldn't get over it.ReplyDelete
That's a big problem I find with most movies/miniseries based on books. Although the miniseries of The Shining was pretty fantastic.Delete
This is one of my favorite SK novels and definitely my favorite of his more recent ones. And yes, the miniseries was that bad. I couldn't get past the casting. They made Mike a rude 60 year jerk who runs - and don't get me started on the accent. The Maine accent is hard anyway, but I think it's worse if the person is from Ireland.ReplyDelete
Seriously, I don't know WHAT they were thinking when they cast Pierce Brosnan...even in the previews he just seemed so wrong. From what I've seen of photos, though, it looks like Mattie was cast pretty well. Still not sorry I didn't see it, though.Delete
Nice review of my favorite Stephen King book. And yes, STAY FAR AWAY from that miniseries. It will only make you angry.ReplyDelete
It's one of King's bests, along with Dreamcatcher (by the way, the movie adaptation doesn't give it justice. At all). Ghost stories are a bitch to write and are even harder to make scary and this one was just plain perfect.ReplyDelete
I just started Bag of Bones and I'm hooked. So far, it's living up to all the great reviews. :)ReplyDelete