11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.   Adapted from Simon and Schuster

Book Club Ideas

Decorations

Decorations included a fedora with a yellow card, which was worn by the Yellow Card Man – the personification of the obdurate past.  We also included a butterfly (for the butterfly effect) and red roses, which Jackie Kennedy received when she and her husband arrived in Dallas.
Art Rickerby/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images/November 22, 1963

 

Objects that would be found in a 1950’s diner rounded out the rest of the decorations, including these fun napkins, platters (I found these at Hobby Lobby), and Coca Cola glasses.

Activities

We had fun trying to guess the answers to trivia questions using these trivia cards.  You can make up your own questions by doing an internet search on the 1950s and 1960s.  We also included trivia from the book such as “How many times did Stephen King use the words ‘obdurate’ and ‘harmonize’ in 11/22/63?”  This question was a joke of course, but there was a unanimous “I know!” from all the guests.

Music

There were so many fun songs mentioned in this book, such as “Splish Splash” and “My Boyfriend’s Back” but the one that had the most significance was Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood.”

Book Club Menu

George received Lone Star, the national beer of Texas, for a good deed he had done.  Even though almost all of us are from Texas, only a handful had ever tried this beer.  It was quite tasty!

George was served tuna sandwiches and tomato soup in 11/22/63.   For appetizers, we made Tuna Salad Sandwiches served with tomatoes.

Our menu consisted of 50’s diner fare with hamburgers, french fries and milkshakes.  A quick way to make hamburgers for a crowd is by spreading the meat out on a cookie sheet (which can be done before the party and refrigerated) and baking it in the oven.  These Oven Baked Sliders are seasoned with onion soup mix, steak sauce and fajita seasoning.

Liven up a milkshake by adding a little (or a lot) of brandy to make a Brandy Alexander Milkshake.  This recipe is made with ice cream, brandy and creme de cacao.

For dessert, we also had a delicious Lemon Pound Cake.  But nobody wanted to eat it.  Hmmm….I wonder why?

I addition to the pound cake, a Chocolate Milkshake Pie was served.  This pie is made with milk, ice cream and pudding mix.  So easy!


Book Club Resources

Simon and Schuster has put together a book club kit for 11/22/63 that includes an interview with Stephen King about the book, a playlist that Stephen King listened to as he wrote 11/22/63, and recipes.  It’s an excellent resource.

Discussion

Here are a few additional questions that we discussed during our book club meeting.

  1. Were you surprised how easily Jake, the mild-mannered teacher, could hurt people, even if it was for the greater good?  Would you have been able to do the same thing if you knew what would happen if you didn’t act?
  2. If you were able to go back and change the past, would you?  Which event would you most like to change?  What do you think the consequences would be?
  3. Stephen King writes in the afterword that his son thought up a new and better ending.  Did you enjoy the ending of the novel?   Why or why not?  If not, how would you have liked it to end?  Do you think you would have preferred the original ending?.   Do you agree that the published ending is better?
  4. How does this novel compare to other Stephen King novels you have read?  How is it different?

The Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Prize. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.