I struggled with this book, I’ll admit. A longtime Stephen King fan, I know that his books are often arduous and daunting tasks to get through. There are scenes you lose yourself in, and scenes that drag on endlessly. Ultimately, his writing is worth the slow struggle through most of his books, and his plots are top notch. But I will say that Doctor Sleep was rougher to get through than any of the books by him I’ve read previously. While IT took me a month and a half, Doctor Sleep- a shorter novel- took me three. Perhaps it’s because I had seen the movie first, something I don’t normally do, and I knew what would happen as I read. But I had no drive to finish this book. The plot was familiar- and at times, boring. I felt like every step of it was predictable and dull, for a long time, dragging on and not particularly making me care. To be honest, this review sat at a three only because of the quality of the writing itself, and my acknowledgement of having seen the movie affecting my enjoyment of the book.
However, then I reached the end. Huge spoiler alert!! The end shocked me, revealing something I did not remember from the movie, and flooring me when I looked back at all the hints.
Dan Torrance is Abra’s uncle. It was a total shock, but it made perfect sense- and once that was revealed, the book was so much better in my eyes. Stephen King is a master at writing suspense, and at the finer details that make everything come together. There were so many hints and hidden nuances in the book that I completely missed- until I knew, and then it was obvious that it had been carefully crafted and laid out in front of me. Only a talented author can pull off a reveal like that, and it completely affected what I thought of the story. I think, on a second read through, I would appreciate it that much more. There are details that are lovely when you catch them. I loved Dan’s relationship with Abra, and Abra’s personality shown through the story quite heavily. She was a charming addition to the novel, a true fighter with a flaming spirit that made me smile often.
I will also point out the themes of addiction in this novel. In The Shining, Jack Torrance struggled with alcohol addiction, but there was really no resolution for him. He struggled- and he lost to it. He succumbed, he drowned. In Doctor Sleep, his son also struggles and does some awful things, but Dan succeeded where Jack failed. He sought the help, he went to AA and he learned the steps. He got a solid job- one he excelled at- and built a life for himself. I appreciated the difference in his life versus his father’s, and the way Mr. King chose to represent an addict’s journey to recovery. Moreso, I could appreciate that Dan never had a love interest or anything in this novel. He was solely on his own, besides his love for his niece and for the friends he had made, and I really appreciated that there was no romance here- something quite common in recovery stories.
Overall, this novel does not have a great start. I can’t recommend it for people who aren’t fans of King or have seen the movie. But I do think there’s a solid story here if you go into it blind, and I do think the end makes up for the rest of the book.