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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review: Pet Sematary

A few weeks ago, I stumbled into a Starbucks with free books. After a moment of stunned ogling - and eyeing the suspicious old man 'sleeping' by the shelves - I squealed like some sort of silly young person and rushed over to see what they had. My attention was immediately caught by a collection of Stephen King paperbacks. 'Hey, I don't own Pet Sematary yet! I want to read that and the public library is still out for my blood.' Don't ask about the library. Just. Don't.

I'd been warned about Pet Sematary. When I began my Stephen King obsession, back when I was a comparatively younger and far more mature Maria, mom let me know that it was an amazing book which was too tragic for her to finish. I decided then and there that someday, somehow, I would read this book. Flash forward 13 years, and viola! it is within my grasp (and I have a few weeks before school starts up again in which time I can read it).

By the time I got to Pet Sematary, I'd read a LOT of King. I had what I considered to be a fair idea of what I was getting into.

I should never have doubted my mothers warning.

Pet Sematary tells the story of the Creed family. Doctor Louis Creed, his wife Rachel, and their children, daughter Ellie and son Gage. When the family buys a new house as part of their relocating for Louis' new job, the never suspect that they are purchasing a path to immortality...and Hell.

What was so tragic to me about this story is that, unlike in The Shining, or really any other King novel, this is a fairly normal family. There is no marital strain. Louis is a good father and husband. Rachel has her weird thing about death, but it's nothing that puts considerable strain on the marriage. Ellie is a happy and well adjusted little girl and Gage is a happy, sweet and silly toddler. They have a pretty house. Louis has a good job. They have a sweet elderly couple as neighbors. There are no irredeemable stains on this group of people. They are good. And by the first chapter, you know that they will be destroyed.

Inevitable. It's a word I couldn't help but think of constantly as I read. Everything that happened to Louis and his family seemed so inevitable. While reading, I had the constant sensation of being in a movie theater, watching the protagonist open the door which led to a murderer or monster. There were so many other, better choices available for the characters to make. And yet, reading, you knew that in the end there were really no other choices to make but the awful ones they did.

Stephen is at his best with Pet Sematary. The writing captures everything - every emotion and every moment - with crystal clarity. And even when you want to stop, when you think you can't take anymore, he keeps you reading. With the same surety that Louis and his family sink into chaos, you'll keep reading. It spirals in towards its' inevitable conclusion, just like the graves. And as you get closer to the end, that spinning, that inevitability, will make you feel as though you're losing your mind with Louis.

The history of the sematary itself was fascinating as well. A flaw of Kings' is that he rarely gives an explanation in his novels for why something supernatural is the way it is. Don't get me wrong; conjecturing your own explanation can be great fun, and I usually enjoy it. But King can at times become a little too J.J. Abrahms. Here, however, he strikes a perfect balance. He draws on the history of his setting and the supernatural traditions of the Native Americans to create an evil that rivals any Judeo-Christian demon. The Wendigo is something which is used not nearly enough in horror. Native American stories and spiritual traditions are still sorely overlooked sources of inspiration for novels or any genre.

Final thoughts: I loved this book. It was not an easy read. It was hard and uncomfortable and so very sad. But it was wonderfully done. I'm probably going to be like my mom, who read it, loved it, and has no desire to ever read it again. I'm okay with that. But I hope to get other people to read it. It's too good a story and such excellent writing; it would be a waste to exclude it from your to-read pile.

My Rating: An easy 5 out of 5 Mushrooms

Inevitably yours,
Maria D.

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