Bag of Bones: A Novel
Stephen King’s most gripping and unforgettable novel, Bag of Bones, is a story of grief and a lost love’s enduring bonds, of a new love haunted by the secrets of the past, of an innocent child caught in a terrible crossfire.
Set in the Maine territory King has made mythic, Bag of Bones recounts the plight of forty-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, who is unable to stop grieving even four years after the sudden death of his wife, Jo, and who can no longer bear to face the blank screen of his word processor.
Now his nights are plagued by vivid nightmares of the house by the lake. Despite these dreams, or perhaps because of them, Mike finally returns to Sara Laughs, the Noonans’ isolated summer home.
He finds his beloved Yankee town familiar on its surface, but much changed underneath—held in the grip of a powerful millionaire, Max Devore, who twists the very fabric of the community to his purpose: to take his three-year-old granddaughter away from her widowed young mother. As Mike is drawn into their struggle, as he falls in love with both of them, he is also drawn into the mystery of Sara Laughs, now the site of ghostly visitations, ever-escalating nightmares, and the sudden recovery of his writing ability. What are the forces that have been unleashed here—and what do they want of Mike Noonan?
As vivid and enthralling as King’s most enduring works, Bag of Bones resonates with what Amy Tan calls “the witty and obsessive voice of King’s powerful imagination.” It’s no secret that King is our most mesmerizing storyteller. In Bag of Bones—described by Gloria Naylor as “a love story about the dark places within us all”—he proves to be one of our most moving.
Bag of Bones is partly inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, but there’s more than homage in this novel of horror and romance. Like du Maurier’s Manderley, King’s scary old place (on the shore of Maine’s remote Dark Score Lake) is haunted by the late lady of the manor. There are many gory ghosts afoot, though: men, women, and wailing kids. The hero, a thriller novelist, stirs up hell’s plenty of angry shades while investigating his wife’s death. It turns out she either had a dark secret herself or was onto some dread scandal lurking in Dark Score Lake. As in King’s previous book, Wizard and Glass, the fabric of reality is thin, and nosy narrators are in peril of plunging right out of this world and into a rather hostile otherworld.
Bag of Bones is a writer-haunted book, too. The spirits of Herman Melville and Ray Bradbury are deeply felt, and so are the tale’s two romances (the hero muses on his marriage and falls for a young single mom with a marvelous, psychic daughter). There is also good-humored satire of the real bestseller book world—the hero complains that “the publicity process is like going to a sushi bar where you’re the sushi.” In its deep concerns with love, sprawling families, the writer’s life, endangered children, and good old-fashioned storytelling, the book resembles a John Irving novel. It is also absolutely classic Stephen King, packed with nifty turns of phrase, irreverent wit, and lurid ghouls who grab you from beneath the bed while you cower under the covers. —Tim Appelo