As I mentioned when writing about Stephen King’s Joyland audiobook, I got it as well as Revival for a pair of car trips that wracked up about 20 hours of drive time. The former turned out to be a somewhat horror-light mystery with a lot of engrossing characters and a fun setting. Revival has all of that, but also turned out to be a much more horrific and darker experience.
I knew absolutely nothing going into this one and recommend doing the same, but if you’re curious here’s a bit about the story. It’s about a guy named Jamie who meets an electricity-loving pastor named Charles Jacobs when he’s a boy. The two meet again later when Jamie’s a heroin-addicted guitar player and Jacobs is running a carnival show and even later when the now-clean Jamie discovers his old fifth business is running a huge revival operation.
After the death of his wife and son, Jacobs renounced God which got him fired as a pastor. From there he went on to perform experiments looking into the world of what he called Secret Electricity. Harnessing this helped bring back Jamie’s brother’s speech and also stopped Jamie from craving drugs not to mention the people cured during the revival meetings. The problem? Some of the people Jacobs cured wind up with serious mental ticks and even kill themselves, something that Jamie keeps an eye on later on in life.
Without getting too much into the details, that’s what the book is about. But, it’s just a part of what made me fall for it so hard. We spend a lot of time with Jamie as a kid as he comes to know Pastor Jacobs and live his life. I loved that part of the book, especially as the teenager fell in love with playing guitar and joined a band. That really could have been the whole book for me. By the time we jump ahead to Jamie’s junkie days, I found myself actually mourning that little boy and feeling bad about the mess this man had made of his life. Then Jacobs comes along and actually makes it better, but at what cost?
I wasn’t sure if I’d be okay with junkie Jamie and luckily, he’s not around for that long. King weaves a story that brings him out of his lowest point, but also gives him yet another reason to look for Jacobs, this time as something of a detective. That all leads into the last third of the book which gets pretty crazy.
As much as I found myself rooting for and liking Jamie, I also couldn’t help but see Jacobs as the tragic figure he truly is. He probably would have been fine had his family not perished unexpectedly, but that event sent him down a dark path that included Frankensteinian levels of experimentation that we later discover came about because he wanted to know what, if anything, laid beyond the specter of death that hangs over us all. Heck, this guy put on the whole revival pastor thing just to get guinea pigs in his crazy experiments, despising their silly belief the whole time. I actually didn’t find myself disliking Jacobs until a bit later than I probably should have because I felt so damn sorry for him (then again, that’s probably the point), but once he crossed the line as he does at the end, it’s clear that he’s too far gone to care about anyone else but himself and it almost destroys the world.
Even though I listened to this book a few weeks ago, I still find myself thinking about it when my mind wanders, which doesn’t happen often. Heck, I remember where I was on my drive when I heard certain segments and I’ve never been there before! This book hit me in a lot of places and I’m still feeling it, especially because of the bleak ending. I’m far from a King expert, but I’ve read my fair share (I tackled Mr. Mercedes after listening to these two and am about a third of the way through Gunslinger right now) and can’t think of an ending of his that felt so okay-for-now, but ultimately hopeless. Jamie as our narrator throws in a bit about there being a chance the he saw lies or an illusion, but that feels like someone just trying to calm part of his brain down.
Oh and huge props to David Morse for reading the hell out of Revival! Jamie goes through three or four stages in this book that Morse completely nails in unique but similar ways. The same can be said of Jacobs and some of the other recurring characters. The more I think about it all, the more impressed I am!
In the end, I’m incredibly glad I listened to Revival. It really helped pass the time during my trip and also continues to stick with me in ways that surprise me on a day to day basis. This one’s going to take up a nice chunk of real estate in my brain for a while, I think.