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Stephen King could probably turn a book about paint drying into a bestseller. His newest effort, though, has loftier ambitions. It's about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a what-if science fiction take on a subject that's been tackled over and over again by historians.

Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, is glad King took it up.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Steven King has written a time travel novel about a Maine high school English teacher named Jake Epping who travels back to 1958. And as silly as it sounds, King makes it work that there's a portal back to that year in the back room of the teacher's favorite local deli.

Epping lays plans to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald and thus save President Kennedy and the world from terrible things. Life in the past gets complicated almost immediately, though. Jake tests his powers to alter the future by shooting the murderous father of a janitor from his high school, knowing that this will save the family from immediate death and destruction at the hands of this monster.

Jake then heads to Texas to prepare for 11/22/63, taking a job at a rural high school outside of Dallas. There, he falls in love with southern small town life, with his students and with a new librarian named Sadie. And he discovers time and again just how the past fights back against his plans to change it.

The combination of King's love of the '50s and his deeper search into the Kennedy assassination make this novel a terrifically entertaining work of fiction. King wrote this extremely long book between 01/09 and 12/10. If I could go back in time, I wouldn't have him change a single page.

RAZ: The book is called "11/22/63" by Stephen King. Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.




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