I read it on three platforms — audio, e-book and print book — and it was great in each. In fact, I would strongly recommend giving Kate Mulgrew's audio performance a try, no matter your stance on audiobooks.
However, it was relentless enough, and long enough, to make me beg for sweet release by the end.
Plus, I can never stomach how the King men kill animals in their novels. (Seriously, guys, just stop it. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Even when it makes total sense and makes the story more poignant, resist the urge. Thank you.)
Okay, back to the topic at hand. I started the book a couple of times since its publication in 2013. I got as far as the prologue, maybe a couple of pages into the body of the book, and put it down. It was weird and fascinating, but it didn't snag me. Why the nurse? Why this kid? Lots of portended creepiness, but nothing concrete.
Then I let Kate Mulgrew pull me in with that throaty voice I've loved since "Ryan's Hope." Her portrayal of the characters was sincere and gripping. (A couple of them sounded more like Minnesota hicks than I would have imagined them to, like Lou, but it fit their personas.) Because I was switching between platforms, I never heard her read Maggie Leigh, for which I am grateful.
I loved Maggie. I found her flawed and tragic, and the progression of her story was poignant and gorgeous. I would love to read a book in which Maggie is the central character.
I am still processing how brittle and flawed Hill makes his female characters, and what the male characters of his story have to contribute to the definition and capabilities of the females. I think every character has a chance at redemption — well, nearly every one — and most work hard to become more of who and what they are. It's a lovely progression, even for the people who appear to be villains. (Not all "villains" actually are villainous, after all. Some are just incapable of being more than their weaknesses.)
As much as I enjoyed the story, Hill has taken on the mantle of writing the horrific joy out of a scene by stuffing it full of superfluous information, buffoonish characters and ridiculous situations. I stopped reading Stephen King for a while for that same reason, and now still approach his work with the same caution. I am sorry to do the same thing with Hill.
I am about to discuss details of the storyline, so if you have not read the book, beware spoilers.
Okay, you've been warned.
Proceed with caution, or skip the following bulleted paragraphs.
- Hill belabored the haunted telephones that drove Vic to destruction and institutionalization. It didn't spiral, but dragged. Snipped a little, the scene could have been even scarier and more haunting — but instead, readers wove through the longest streets in Denver with a woman in underwear that, inexplicably, no one seemed to see.
- Hill handled Charlie Manx's autopsy scene with an unexpected level of clumsiness. The security guard was totally ridiculous, a sex-crazed stupid kid who was even more useless than Barney Fife. The senseless buffoon felt superfluous and distracted from the horror of the situation.
- How did a dead man and a masked psychopath in a huge vintage car move in across the street from Linda McQueen's house without detection? In every neighborhood in which I have lived, everyone knew everyone else's business. Even if I wasn't in the know about, say, the Brown family, Mrs. Herrera was, and she told us. Major loss didn't distract us from each other, so Linda's death should not have created such a vacuum of observation.
- Finally, the ending was way too weird. No municipality would have allowed Sleigh House to remain standing (such as it was) after all of these years, thanks to back taxes, death and human heebie-jeebies. Children who have not aged in centuries would be hard for anyone to accept, even an open-minded fibbie. I loved that Lou had to break the spell, but if NOS4A2 was the key to Manx's power, why in the world didn't Manx's power end when NOS4A2 did?
Thus endeth the spoilers.