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August 15, 2022

Review in Haiku: Gerald's Game

By Katrina Stonoff

She. Handcuffed to bed.
Madness and death threaten when ...
He. Dies. Heart attack.

As one should expect from this master of suspense, Gerald's Game, by Stephen King, will trap you from the moment you pick it up and will not let you put it down until you have finished.

And woe on you should you find yourself alone in a house a week or two later, late at night, listening to unexplained noises. Ask me how I know.

The premise here is very simple: an afternoon of hanky-panky leaves a wife handcuffed to the bed when her husband dies of a heart attack. With the exception of the last few chapters, which primarily summarize, the entire book covers little more than 24 hours.

Two small details, however, turn an uncomfortable and embarrassing situation into a struggle for both sanity and life itself: an isolated cabin in the mountains and an open door.

One of the members of my writers group recommended Gerald's Game to me because Stephen King used an unusual technique I am using in East of Jesus. And indeed, I need to read the book again to study exactly what he's done because it's very skillful indeed.

But on the first read, I forgot to study the novel because I was King's captive: caught on a roller coaster through a fun house until the operator chose to stop the ride. And frankly, I've put off reading it again because heck, the book's already haunting me! I'd like to be able to sleep again, thank you very much.

If I wanted to criticize, I could point to the ending: summarized a little too neatly in a letter. I rarely like epistolary fiction. But in truth, after the immediacy of the preceding chapters, and the completeness of the event that ends that section, the summary letters seemed to fit.

I could also point out two unusual phrases that repeat over and over, both of which are probably out of point of view since they view women and men's orgasms in a way a woman never would. But these are minor points.

In Danse Macabre, King famously said, "I recognize terror as the finest emotion ... and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud."

There's little of the "gross-out" in Gerald's Game. With one exception (degloving: you'll recognize it when you get there), this book truly strikes terror. There's even little of the supernatural here: just base human nature, trapped alone with itself.

Truly terrifying.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-06-25
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