About halfway through Revival, I realized something — how much I enjoy reading all of the reviews from my fellow Cannonballers every year. I found myself thinking, wow, this one is pretty good so far. I wonder what popcultureboy (who I usually agree with on all matters King) and TravisJSmith (who usually has the opposite opinion, but I love reading why) think? Have they read it yet? I can’t wait to see what they write… **
I think Revival is one of the strongest, and scariest books that Uncle Stevie has written in quite some time. In fact, until the very end (because yes, the actual BIG SCENE ending didn’t quite work for me), I was anxious and nervous about what might happen. And although the BIG SCENE didn’t do it for me, there was a quiet epilogue that was even scarier.
Revival is told over 50+ years and is the story of Jamie Morton — a young boy in Maine at the beginning, and a middle-aged rock & roller by the end. The other main character is the Reverend Charles Jacobs, who Jamie refers to as his “fifth business.” King describes the term “fifth business” as a character who pops up again and again throughout your life, but isn’t the hero of the story, nor the villain, not the best friend, nor the spouse, but someone who initiates whatever change might take place in the story.
When we first meet Rev. Jacobs, he is young, handsome, and charismatic. He moves to town with his beautiful wife and precocious young son. Sunday’s sermons start to fill up, with everyone in town wanting to catch a glimpse of the new preacher. All of Jamie’s friends want to be like him, and all of them are in love with his wife. And when tragedy strikes the young Jacobs family, something changes in Rev. Jacobs, and turns him into a different man altogether. A man without any faith at all.
And then Something Happened.
After many years, Jamie and Jacobs cross paths again and again. Jamie finds music and his life becomes guitar and drugs. Jacobs — who has always been somewhat fascinated by electricity, and the potential healing properties of electricity — is making a living as a carnival act, using electricity as a sort of magic.
And even later, Jamie comes across Jacobs again, this time as a preacher in a tent revival show, a television evangelist who claims to be able to cure the sick simply with the touch of his golden rings. And it turns out that yes, Jacobs can cure the sick and dying. But at what cost?
I know. It doesn’t sound like much. Where are the demons or the clowns in the sewer? Jacobs just seems like a regular — albeit very disturbed — man.
And that’s what makes him so terrifying.
I felt real dread while reading this book. Maybe for the first time in a Stephen King book since The Dark Tower (you know, in Book 7…when we knew the ka-tet would crumble, and it was excruciating and agonizing to read and see if our favorite characters would survive).
And even though I didn’t buy the big reveal at the end, it was only the physical description of the situation that failed for me. The bigger picture — what Jacobs was doing, and why — that was scary as hell.
And of course, it’s always fun to find other references to King’s previous works tossed into his stories. This one had nods to Joyland, as well as the towns of Castle Rock and Derry.
Overall, a strong outing from Uncle Stevie. It’s been a pretty good run for him: 11/22/63, the Wind Through the Keyhole, Joyland, Doctor Sleep, Mr Mercedes, and now, Revival. Much better than the previous offerings of Under the Dome, Duma Key, Blaze, Lisey’s Story, and Cell.
**And since I finished reading, I’m happy to report that popcultureboy did read it and liked it. I felt quite relieved.