Is Pet Sematary the darkest King novel? King himself thinks so.
It’s been while since I published a book review, and that’s because I don’t have any time to read anymore. I’m getting married in 11 days, so reading has unfortunately taken a back seat, while table plans and favours are all I can think about.
However, about two weeks ago I began Pet Sematary. It took me a while to get into it, but once I reached the halfway mark, I finished the book in two days.
The book is set in Maine, as are most Stephen King books. Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, have moved here with their two children, Ellie and Gage. They very quickly meet their neighbours, Jud and Norma, who live across the very busy road that separates the two houses.
Louis has just begun work as a doctor in the university, attending to students whenever they need medical attention. On the first day of his new job, a student dies from a very severe head injury. Upon dying, the student whispers something about a pet cemetery in Louis’ ear. Louis disregards what he heard as the ramblings of a person on their death bed.
However, Jud takes Louis, Rachel, Ellie, and Gage on a walk at the back of their new house. On this walk, they come across the ‘pet semetary’, a place where children have buried their dead pets for hundreds of years. The cemetery has plenty of DIY’d headstones. Rachel isn’t happy about her children being exposed to death in such a way.
The cemetery is forgotten, until the family cat, Church, is killed by a car on the busy highway outside the house. Jud tells Louis of a place, where the cat can be buried, and Ellie will never know he even died. Jud takes Louis on a dangerous trek through the woods in the middle of the night, taking him past the pet cemetery and to a different place entirely.
The next morning, Louis gets the fright of his life when Church appears, almost his normal self, but with something different about him. Is he a zombie, a figment of imagination, or something creepier? He smells funny, and acts funny, but besides that, he looks just like Church did.
But what would happen if you were to bury a person in the strange land on top of the hill? And what would the repercussions be?
Stephen King published Pet Sematary in 1983, but wrote it years earlier and locked it in a drawer, thinking he’d finally pushed the subject matter too far. He believes his scariest novel to be The Shining, but his most disturbing book to be Pet Sematary.
As I said, it took me a while to settle into this book. It could almost be a short story, that has been elongated and slowed down to fit into a 400-page novel. But once I arrived at the point when Church gets reincarnated, I was hooked.
As King says, the novel is shocking. There are many times when you’re pleading with a certain character not to do what they’re planning on doing. You want everything to go wrong for them so they can’t reach their end goal. I don’t think it’s my favourite King novel, but it’s one I’d definitely read again.
I wouldn’t say I particularly liked any one character. We find out some dark things about Rachel’s past that were unexpected, and acted as a kind of subplot. Louis is a likeable character but his actions make us dislike him. Ellie is the most annoying child you’ll ever meet, but then what 7 year old isn’t annoying? There’s something funny about Jud and Norma too, though it takes a while to work out what this is.
If you’re a fan of The Shining, this is the next read for you.
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