Bag of Bones is one of King’s bigger books (just over 700 pages). As with another of his larger novels that I read and loved recently (The Tommyknockers), this one veers off maybe a tick too long here and there, but here, the off-trail jaunts accomplish what they should-they draw you deeper into the story. And what a deep tale it is.
“Then I got back to the house, and all I worried about was my story and the people in it–bags of bones which were putting on flesh daily.”
As a writer, I fell into this novel more so than some of the others I’ve read (even King’s). We have Mike Noonan, a writer who is facing an entire Walmart of problems. Besides ghosts, small town mysteries, what his since-deceased wife was doing in the months before she died, how he could help a young girl defeat and evil, rich, scaly old SOB and keep her daughter safe, author, Mike Noonan, was struggling with a severe case of writer’s block. I felt like King was giving us a look behind the curtain. He noted in the afterward that he was also writing or set to write On Writing at the time, as well. I’m sure those thoughts were floating in his brain at the time and seeped into this larger piece. I found the writer’s side of Mike Noonan’s adventure (or misadventure) just as captivating as the rest of the amazing story (until I hit the last couple hundred pages…then it was full-on holy hell-what’s going to happen!) But prior to the last quarter or so of the book, I was pulling for Mike to write again, I was excited for him when he did, I wanted so bad to see him get to write THE END with his new story. Once he does start writing again,King talks a lot about getting “in the zone”, and for us writers, that’s where we dive in and swim until we’ve got no choice but to come up for air. And when we do break the surface, it’s the sweetest air.
Which brings us to a fine piece of horror in this book that has Mike coming up for air….
The scariest scene in the entire book for me was definitely when Mike gets cornered by Max Devore and his aid, Rogette, on The Street. If you’ve read it, you know exactly what I mean, if you haven’t-you will (picture that being said in Yoda’s voice when he’s telling Luke he will be afraid! I think Yoda actually says “you will be”, but whatever, you get the point). We hadn’t seen Max up until that point and man, King delivers a horror home run. Rogette turns out to be just as scary (with her softball rock throwing skills on full display!).
“Her lips were painted so brightly red she seemed to be bleeding from the mouth.”
The heartbreak and magic of the book centers around young widow, Mattie Devore, her 3-year-old daughter, Kyra, and Mike. When I tell you there’s some hard hitting stuff in this novel, I’m not kidding. I usually see things from a mile away, but what goes on in this novel caught me by surprise and flipped me on my head. I thought I knew what was around the bend….and each time I got that line of thinking King walloped me, leveling me and leaving me needing to come up for air. Only problem was, the story burns like gasoline in the last two hundred-plus pages….finally finished, I am exhausted.
“It was as if the heart had been burned out of her and the sadness that remained was just another ghost , the memory of love haunting the bones of hate.”
King packs punch after punch of pure heart and soul in these pages. It is a thing of beauty and awe. He has that intangible that all of us are striving for- the honesty and emotion- and does it so effortlessly. He’s mastered that chi of writing that makes characters completely real and these worlds of fiction take form around us making everything else fade into the background. Pure magic.
Bag of Bones is definitely one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever read. A brilliant and completely engaging work by my favorite writer.
I give Bag of Bones 5 stars!