DOCTOR SLEEP, Stephen King

doctor sleepI believe that characters are born in a lone writer’s imagination and roused to life with ink on paper. However, the character takes human form only in the minds of others. This experience is unique to books and reading. One imagination triggers others and in that whirlwind fictitious people gain our empathy, admiration or disdain, and become flesh and bone. In the hands of a master story teller, a character can attain the same emotional fondness as someone we cared about in our past. We return to them in memory, ignoring the fact that they’re imaginary people, and hope that their post-story existence was well lived.

This unique phenomena was especially true for Danny Torrance, the son of Wendy and John Torrance, who spent one disastrous winter at the Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado. Given the author’s notes, this was true for many readers. If you ever hoped that Danny grew up to be well adjusted, found someone to love and who would love him back, and survived not only physically but emotionally, you were not alone.

Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep simply answer the question, “Whatever happened to the kid from The Shining?”

Danny, now a middle aged man, carries all the demons one would expect from a childhood splintered by trauma and undead things. He’s his father’s son, no doubt about that. He’s also Wendy’s gentle boy. Most of all, he’s Dick Hallorann’s friend, and Dick’s lifelong influence over him is a lesson to us all.

King loads this story with devious symbolism. One might expect a heavier hand from the book’s title (Remember Danny’s nickname? What’s up, Doc?), but King take the higher, more poetic path from the first pages. Early in the story he writes, “Shattered vertebrae and broken ribs heal, but they never cease crying out.” Such is the truth of King’s work here. Such is the truth of any horror story.

I won’t summarize Doctor Sleep’s plot here. It’s far too epic, its tapestry too complex for a short blog article. Many of the Amazon reviews will attempt to, but keep in mind they contain spoilers and misinterpretations. My recommendation is simple: if you have not already done so, pull out your copy of The Shining and sink into that cold, world again. Look after Danny. Root for him. Know him as he used to be. Then join him as a grim, eight year old in Florida. Hang on during his haze of adulthood as he’s licking wounds so deep they’ve never healed. Finally, stare into the possibilities – both victorious and tragic – fueled as strongly as ever by the shining. LL

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