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11.22.63 by Stephen King

11.22.63 (edition 2012)

by Stephen King

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5,892423709 (4.2)1 / 516
Authors:Stephen King
Info:Hodder Paperback (2012), Paperback
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Tags:time travel

Work details

11/22/63 by Stephen King

  1. 152
    It by Stephen King (watertiger, sturlington)
    watertiger: The characters from IT are referenced in 11/22/63
    sturlington: A section of 11/22/63 is set in Derry and features characters from It.
  2. 80
    The Dead Zone by Stephen King (StarryNightElf)
  3. 70
    Time and again by Jack Finney (zwelbast, bookworm12)
  4. 60
    Replay by Ken Grimwood (SJaneDoe, dltj)
    dltj: Shares a similar plot line that covers part of the same time period, and "Replay" even includes a story fragment about November 22, 1963.
  5. 20
    Somewhere In Time by Richard Matheson (stevetempo)
    stevetempo: No change in history here...but a cross time romance is featured...if you saw and enjoyed the movie...read the book.
  6. 32
    American Tabloid by James Ellroy (glwebb)
    glwebb: If you liked 11/22/63 then American Tabloid should be right up your street. A very snappy, complicated, twisted look at the Kennedy Presidency and assassination. Ellroy dishes up a counterfactual history that seems almost too real to be anything other than the secret truth.… (more)
  7. 22
    American Gods - The Tenth Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: Both novels are epic. They both have elements of time travel and a sense that minor actions can lead to major unintended consequences.
  8. 00
    Time and Time Again by Ben Elton (aliklein)
  9. 02
    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (mene)
    mene: Both books are about time travel through a kind of portal. In both books, the time traveller finds love on the other side, but the effects of the time travel and the way it works are different. In King's book, the time traveller also actively tries to change history, while in Gabaldon's book, the time traveller uses her knowledge of future events a lot less actively.… (more)

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Cross-posted to Knite Writes.


Short Version: A teacher from Maine goes back in time to save JFK from getting assassinated as a favor from his friend who’s dying of lung cancer. The time portal thing-a-ma-gig only goes back to 1958 though, so he has to spend several years living in the past. He meets a woman named Sadie, falls in love, and decides he’ll either stay in the past after saving JFK or bring her to the future. Unfortunately, she gets shot by Lee Harvey Oswald during the assassination attempt–on the bright side, JFK lives. Then the protagonist returns to the future…to discover it’s a radioactive wasteland being torn apart by earthquakes. So he goes back to the past and erases five years of hard work in, like, two seconds. The End.

Long Version:

Maine teacher Jake Epping has his world turned upside-down when his diner-owning friend Al calls him one up day and asks for a meeting. Jake arrives at the diner to discover that somehow, since he last saw Al yesterday, the man has come down with terminal lung cancer and looks several years older. Al explains that there’s a time portal to 1958 in his pantry that he attempted to use to save JFK from being assassinated by Oswald. Unfortunately, since he developed cancer before 1963, he’s now too weak to undertake the task. So he asks Jake to do it.

Of course, Jake thinks Al is nuts. Until Al shows him the time portal–it’s some kind of invisible staircase thing that leads to an isolated area of the town’s old mill (in 1958, of course). Jake, fascinated, and basically guilted into saying yes, decides he wants to test changing the past first before he agrees to throw away five years of his life in the middle of the 20th century. Al allows it–mostly because no matter how long you stay in the past, when you return to the present, it’s only been two minutes. That, and every time you step into the portal, the timeline resets. So if you mess up, you can just try, try again! Convenient! -cough-

So Jake travels back to 1958. For his test at changing the future, he chooses a man named Harry. In the present, Harry is a disabled man who was attacked by his father during a drunken rampage that resulted in his entire family (except him) being beaten to death with a hammer. Jake locates Harry’s family in the past–he lives in Derry, Maine. You know, like half of all the characters King has ever created. Unsurprisingly, there are a crap-ton of references to Pennywise (the evil demon clown from IT), which means Stephen King is apparently still writing in the same universe he’s been writing in for like…30 years.

Anyway, Jake tries to save Harry from his murderous father. Thing is, Al explained to him that “the past is obdurate.” Basically, it tries its hardest not to be changed. Thus, when the day comes for Jake to save Harry, he ends up with a horrible stomach virus, another guy who wants to kill Harry’s father (for different reasons) shows up and holds Jake hostage for several minutes right before Harry’s father shows up to kill his family, and despite Jake’s best efforts, one of Harry’s brothers still dies in the fray. He saves the rest of the family though.

Then he returns to the present to discover Harry died in Vietnam–because he wasn’t disabled. Ouch.

Regardless, Jake proves to himself that he can change the timeline. He doesn’t really want to spend five years in the past to try and save JFK, especially if it’s going to end up like the Harry debacle. But…Al purposefully overdoses on painkillers to commit suicide in order to guilt Jake into doing it anyway. Asshole.

So Jake goes back to 1958 again. Reset! He still wants to save Harry, but this time, instead of waiting until the night of the murder, he simply kills Harry’s dad one random day in a cemetery. Appropriate. That done, he heads for Florida because…why not? He doesn’t need to be in Texas for a few years. He gets himself a nice beach house, makes money through betting (Al left him a list of winners from various sports through the relevant years), and then…has to leave abruptly when he realizes his mob-related bookie wants to kill him. He narrowly avoids getting torched along with his house.

Then he moves to Texas. He settles in a small town called Jodie, where he meets a young woman named Sadie. Cue love story! Jake teaches at the local school there for a year, builds a good relationship with Sadie–who he discovers was in a terribly abusive relationship with her already-separated-from and soon-to-be ex-husband–and lives the good life. However, Jake knows he need to start making a move on Oswald, who’ll be living in Texas in the couple years leading up to JFK’s assassination. So at the end of the year, he sort of breaks up Sadie and leaves Jodie. Sort of.

Now, we all know about the tremendous number of conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination, right? Well, dear old Al ruled most of them out, but he was still only about 90% sure that Oswald was the sole assassin. So Jake spends a great deal of time spying on Oswald and all of his influences to attempt to find out if anyone else was working with him. His best bet is to be present at the almost-assassination of General Edwin Walker, also perpetrated by Oswald.

So he waits for that to roll around–in the meantime, he gets back together with Sadie. Because the past loves to play horrific practical jokes on time travelers, the same day that Oswald takes the shot at Walker, Sadie is attacked by her insane ex-husband. Jake gets there in time to prevent her from getting murdered, but she’s horribly disfigured because the psycho sliced one of her cheeks in half with a damn kitchen knife. Jake, feeling terrible–because this is the 1950s/60s, and women are judged pretty much solely on how pretty they are–stays in Jodie to help her recover and raise money for cosmetic surgery to fix what little of the damage they can with their “modern” medicine.

After Sadie finally gets back on her feet, Jake goes out betting again to raise more money for himself and her (since he spent almost all of what he had on Sadie’s hospital bills). Unfortunately, because the past is a freaking evil, it turns out all the bookies he’s been to are all weirdly connected. One of them, as a favor for the guy who torched Jake’s house in Florida, follows Jake to one of the places he used to watch Oswald and beats the living daylights of him. He spends the next several months recovering from a permanently messed-up knee (and arm), and…of course…amnesia.

He can’t remember who’s going to kill JFK.


It’s okay, though. He eventually figures it out because he remembers where he stashed all Al’s notes about the assassination. Unfortunately, the whole thing comes down to the wire. He has to stop Oswald on 11/22/63. He tries to avoid telling Sadie that he’s remembered, but she manages to track him down anyway and convinces him to let her come along, if only because there’s no way his banged-up body is going to get him there without help.

Naturally, they spend the entire morning of the assassination having catastrophic car failures (and a bus crash)–because the past is obdurate, after all. They get to the Texas Schoolbook Depository with minutes to spare, but then they have to climb up several flights of stairs to reach Oswald. Jake gets to the sixth floor with seconds to spare, but he’s so off his game, he misses a clear shot at Oswald. Twice. Oswald shoots back at him. The bullet hits Sadie. She dies.

Oswald then gets shot to death through the window by about 50 different people and dies, too. JFK is saved!


Jake is interrogated by the FBI, but since they can’t pin him as being a co-conspirator (and believe he’s some kind of agent for the CIA or Russia or something, tasked with taking care of Oswald), they let him slip quietly away from Texas and avoid the media. He returns to Maine, now with nothing left to tie him to the past, and heads back through the time portal.

But not before being stopped by a dude who knows who he is–a time traveler, not the guy who saved JFK. You see, at the beginning of the story, there was dude Al called the “yellow card man.” Al thought he was some poor chump who’d been messed up because he hung around the time portal for too long. Turns out the “yellow card man” was actually a member of some organization or other that deals/manages/has something to do with alternate time streams. The new “green card man,” who is a bit more sane the “yellow” one, tells Jake he needs to reset what he’s done with JFK and let the time portal close along with the coming demolition of Al’s diner in the present.

Jake is already set on resetting the timeline again–since Sadie died–but when he returns to future, he immediately understands why the “green card man” warned him off messing with the timeline. Because the “fabric of reality” is coming undone thanks to Jake’s major change in the timeline, the entire planet is falling apart in the present. Earthquakes are tearing the world to pieces. There’ve been nuclear wars. Radiation has soaked everything, and everyone has horrible sores and deformities. Basically, saving JFK led to the apocalypse. Naturally.

So Jake goes back and resets it. He really wants to save Sadie. He really wants to save Harry. He really wants to save a lot of people. But after spending another month or so in the past writing down all of his adventures, he decides the jig is up, returns to the present without changing the timeline (much), and low and behold, the present is now intact. Because he’s now five years older (and looks it) and has a horrible limp, Jake decides to leave his little town and move somewhere where nobody knows him.

Then he checks newspapers from the 60s to see what happened to Sadie. Turns out she lived even without his interference (though she was still disfigured). She spent her whole life as a political and community activist and was voted Jodie’s “citizen of the century.” Jake shows up during the festivities celebrating her long, good life and has a final dance with her. Of course, she doesn’t know him because they never met, and her life is winding down (she’s about 80) while his is still in full swing, but Jake is just happy he gets to see her again.

The End.

-wipes sweat from forehead-


My Take

I enjoyed this story. Despite what the title suggests, this story is less about time travel and saving JFK than it is about the individual characters in the story–mostly Jake. The structure of the book has Jake peering into the lives of several people in the past, both real figures and made-up characters. The case of the Oswald family is particularly interesting because Jake actually gets to watch the development of their marital issues, Lee’s abusive behavior, and Lee’s poor relationship with his overbearing mother, among other things.

This is a travel story. And not just through time. King explores the differences between North and South in the middle of the 20th century; he spends a good deal of time examining the lifestyle differences between classes and exploring the varying attitudes about class and race. Because Jake goes so many places, we get a good look at the massive gaps between mindsets, ideologies, and wealth that defined the US in the middle of the last century. King really uses Jake as a scope to analyze the 1950s/60s life. Which I found a pretty interesting take on the story.

Now, I have nothing against action stories, but this wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting if King had just made this about a dude racing to stop Oswald. What made it most interesting was the complexity of the life Jake built in the past and how he struggled to bridge the gap between wanting to save JFK and wanting to settle down as a regular middle-class teacher with a wonderful woman.

That being said, I have one major issue with this book: it is too long.

A long story isn’t necessarily a bad thing in general. Some books should be long. This, however, could have been a hell of a lot shorter. This book is 842 pages long (paperback) and covers a several-year timeline. And really, when I think back to the beginning of the story, it feels like it was years ago. Somebody needs to step up and tell King to edit. This book could have been just as interesting (if not more) if it was half as long. He would have lost none of the character development, none of the exploration…nothing…even if he had cut out several hundred pages. I know King likes building really complex story lines, but sometimes he needs to just strip out some of the excess. And there is a lot of excess in this book.

I think my only other issue with this story is the lack of development about the “card” guys. I know they were supposed to remain mysterious, but I would have liked to learn more about them. It was just kind of abrupt how, at the very end of the story, you discover the “yellow card man” is part of some group of people “trained” to…do…something with alternate time streams and their minds. It’s never really clarified. King is good at introducing concepts that aren’t always entirely explained, and I think if he’d left out the part about there being a group/organization of “card” guys and just had there be another “card” guy, I would’ve have liked it more.

In other words, if he hadn’t tried to explain anything, I would have been fine. But King started to explain the “card” guys and didn’t finish, which irked me a little.



Don’t have much to say on this front. I like King’s writing style (generally). In 11/22/63, he uses the the same cleanly-written, occasionally sarcastic first person he often does. Writing style is an aspect of King’s work I rarely have problems with.


Is It Worth Reading?

Um…that’s a hard question to answer. I like the story, but it is long. If you have time to read it, I say yes. If you have an exceptionally long to-read list and not a lot of time to complete it, you may want to push this one back to the end.



3.5/5 ( )
  ClaraCoulson | Nov 16, 2015 |
I was a big fan of Stephen King back in high school and the first couple years of college. The last thing I read of his that I absolutely loved was "The Stand". Then I began reading less and less of him, no longer feeling that thrill until I stopped reading him at all for about a decade. About 15 years ago, I had an itch to read him again and got "Bag of Bones" and I was soooo disappointed. I disliked the story, couldn't sympathize with the main character and the creepiness just wasn't very. Oh well, let it go.
And then "11/22/63" came out and I was both dismayed and curious, but not willing to pay the exorbitant retail price. I'd wait until it came out in paperback. The paperback came out and it, too, was overly expensive for my taste. (Remember Elaine's question "is he spongeworthy?" in the show "Seinfeld"? My question is "is it retail price worthy?") Anyway, I bid my time until I found it for $1.50 at the Library resale store, looking brand-new and its spine uncreased. Whew-hoo!!
So why was I dismayed, but curious? Because back in the early 90s when I should have been working on my dissertation, I started writing a short story which was about time travel and the Kennedy assassination. Yes, I know, there are many stories (and even a tv show or two) that used the premise of time travel to stop the Kennedy assassination. I felt my story had a unique twist, which I will not elaborate on since I may go back and finish it one day. I wanted to see what King did with this idea, and how close it was to my idea.
The biggest problem with King's novel is how dragged out it is. The last 50 pages are the best where the pull of time itself is hindering the main character from getting to his objective. [SPOILER ALERT: If the main character hadn't procrastinated so long, this wouldn't have been such an issue, but then no story, at least, not the way it is written.] The thing that worked so well in his earlier novels-the details about his main character's life and relations, the detours from the main story-all got in the way of what I, at least, was interested in finding out. And that was the main problem for me, I felt it was all padding-what was going to happen to the 'love of his life' was telegraphed almost from the first moment she is introduced. The details of Oswald's relations with his wife become extremely repetitive (OK! He's a bad guy!!), and, though King did an immense amount of research, it really bugged me when he transcribes a phrase from Russian that means "Walk, bitch!" and it is not correct! I've taught Russian for 25 years, and though I'm not a native speaker, I've never heard or seen that phrase as written. Really?! Then the time-travel thing itself is never explained (the man/men with the ticket was just dumb)--it is just an anomaly.
In the end, I think my idea for a story is safe. My suggestion is that unless you are a die-hard Stephen King fan, or really want to see if he got the details right, just read up to where the time-travel anomaly is introduced, then read the last 50 pages. ( )
  Marse | Nov 5, 2015 |
The book seems daunting, topping out at 849 pages, but it's worth the heft. I'm not a huge Stephen King fan - I tried to read several novels in high school and college and found his prose heavy with description that didn't help propel the story. I've always liked his short stories though, especially in Everything's Eventual. I'm interested in the Kennedy assassination and conspiracies, as well as time travel, so I knew this book would be a good re-introduction to King's work.

Usually there are parts of books that I think can be taken out to make the story more concise, but despite the length of this book, I wouldn't take anything out. King does any excellent job of including side stories that don't seem crucial to the plot but are interesting, and they are all relevant in the end. If anything was left out, it would seem like he's glossing over time (the book spans over four years of history). The aspect of time travel was handled very well, and is guaranteed to get you thinking "what if?". Some sentences were repeated to drive home the point of the past "harmonizing," and I think King thought these were more profound than they were - for me, they lost power each time I re-read them. However, the prose was very concise and some sentences were absolutely beautiful and moving. Highly recommended. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
This was a wonderful novel. The protagonist goes back in time to save President Kennedy. He confronts the best and worst of the late 1950s-early 1960s. I highly recommend this gripping tale. ( )
  Amusedbythis | Oct 31, 2015 |
I'm a fan of time travel tales to begin with, so combining that and Stephen King seems tailored to me. Well, I was not disappointed! One of my favorites by the master, although if you are looking for classic King horror look elsewhere. This story deals with altering the past and possible consequences, and it's done masterfully! What a great book, get your copy, set some time aside (you won't want to put it down), and enjoy an interesting and engrossing story! ( )
  bearlyr | Oct 1, 2015 |
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...ingen van läsare av science fiction kommer att bli överraskad.

It all adds up to one of the best time-travel stories since H. G. Wells. King has captured something wonderful. Could it be the bottomlessness of reality? The closer you get to history, the more mysterious it becomes. He has written a deeply romantic and pessimistic book. It’s romantic about the real possibility of love, and pessimistic about everything else.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Kingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bonomelli, RexCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cassel, BooTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gassie, NadineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hobbing, ErichDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuipers, HugoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rekiaro, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wasson, CraigReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It is virtually not assimilable to our reason that a small lonely man felled a giant in the midst of his limousines, his legions, his throng, and his security. If such a nonentity destroyed the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, then a world of disproportion engulfs us, and we live in a universe that is absurd.

- Norman Mailer
If there is love, smallpox scars are as pretty as dimples.

- Japanese proverb
Dancing is life.
For Zelda
Hey, honey, welcome to the party
First words
I have never been what you call a crying man.
But stupidity is one of two things we see most clearly in retrospect.  The other is missed chances.
Although emotionally delicate and eminently bruisable, teenagers are short on empathy.  That comes later in life, if at all.
Life turns on a dime.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas,
President Kennedy died, and the world changed.

If you had the chance to change history, would you?
Would the consequences be worth it?

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.
Haiku summary
Can we change the past?
Not if it erases life.
Better just to dance. (enemyanniemae)

No descriptions found.

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On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? The author's new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination. In this novel that is a tribute to a simpler era, he sweeps readers back in time to another moment, a real life moment, when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history. Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students, a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night fifty years ago when Harry Dunning's father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk. Not much later, Jake's friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane, and insanely possible, mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake's new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life, a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.… (more)

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