Jake Epping is a divorced high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine who learns about a door to the past - to a particular day in 1958 - and decides to use it to prevent JFK's assassination. Since that doesn't happen until 1963, he has some time to make a life for himself as he follows Lee Harvey Oswald's path towards that fateful day. Jack gets a job as a teacher, makes friends, and falls in love. He also learns that the past is obdurate - it doesn't like to be changed. He faces many obstacles to his goals, as well as strange coincidences that he is convinced aren't actually coincidental at all.
After finishing this book, I felt like I'd just returned from a long and harrowing trip. It wasn't as harrowing as Jake Epping's trip from 2011 to 1958, but just watching him was quite exhausting (plus I had to turn every one of those 849 pages.) This was a long freaking book, but not unnecessarily; there was a lot of story. Before undertaking the JFK trip, he tried to change a smaller event, just to see if it would work and how it would affect 2011. Then he returned to 1958 for the long haul.
I liked the parameters of time travel as Stephen King created them. Epping used his first trip to prevent a family from being murdered, but when he went back a second time everything was reset. So he had to prevent that murder again before moving on to his JFK project. It makes sense. Interestingly, every trip through the time travel portal was only two minutes in 2011. So after spending 5 years in an earlier time, Jake returned to 2011 and went home and fed his cat who probably didn't even miss him yet.
For those of you who avoid Stephen King books because you don't like horror, take note that this is not a horror novel. It's pretty straight fiction with a little history thrown in, and a love story. The romance between Jake and school librarian Sadie Dunhill was a major focal point of the story. Certain events conspired to draw Jake away from his intended purpose and there were moments I thought this book would go in a direction I was most unhappy about, but it didn't, and that's all I'll say about that. I was very satisfied with the ending.
Although it took me a while to get into, I was soon so engrossed in this book that I wanted to just sit at my desk and read all day at work. (If only that was actually what librarians do!) King has such a gift for getting us inside his characters' heads, and in many cases that is terrifying, but in 11/22/63 it was just incredibly compelling. I tend to shy away from long time-consuming books, but this story was worth every moment.
P.S. Did you know that Stephen King is working on a sequel to The Shining? OMG!