The upcoming (now probably released) movie made want to read it before I see it. Also, I found the whole idea conveyed in the books descriptions/movie trailer, of children creating a burial place for their pets and naming it so intriguing borderline creepy.
[Beware, spoilers ahead]
Unfortunately, this book wasn’t at all what I expected. My biggest issue with it was the slow start and the slow building which lasted more than 50% of it. We have a pretty normal family, Louis and Rachel, parents of Ellie and Gage, one 5 and the other 2. Louis is a doctor and he gets a new job somewhere closer to the countryside, the book starting with the moving of the family into this new house which seems right and comfortable for them. Their neighbors are a charismatic elderly couple, Jud and Norma Crandall. Louis takes an instant liking to the old man, their relationship grows as the book progresses as he sees Jud as close as it gets to a father figure.
One strange thing about their house is the closeness to a very large road used by trucks mostly, also a reason why some pets have died and why Jud warns Louis, whose daughter owns a cat. From here on begins the exploration of the family’s relationship, the budding friendship with the Crandalls and the occasional interesting information, one of which is the first time they visit the Pet Sematary and they hear the story behind it. For me personally, it didn’t feel as creepy as it should I guess, and in spite of all the tension building, I wasn’t all convinced by the mystery and the powers behind that place.
The next noteworthy event is when a man dies at the hospital where Louis works, Pascow is his name, and before doing so, he enigmatically warns Louis about Pet Sematary and some border that must not be crossed and opened. Even though this event has some other ramifications, again, I didn’t get the urgency that I think I should have from it and it somehow got lost along between all those stories about Louis and Rachel’s relationship.
The next incident that broke the chain of events was the death of Ellie’s cat, Church. What followed next was the decision of Jud to introduce Louis to another burial site close to Pet Sematary, one rumored to have belonged to the Indians and to be now deserted because “it’s gone sour”. The road has a mystical quality, filled with a charged fog and somehow instilling you with a sense of righteousness and determination. Even when strange noises pierce the air or when something big comes rumbling through the trees, Jud and Louis keep on going until they reach the right place. Here, they bury the cat, and as Louis will find out very soon, this is not a place where what you bury comes to rest, but it comes back to you, changed. His analytical self tries to make sense of this resurrection and ends up living with the cat as it is now. The family’s life continues undisturbed, until one fateful day the big road claims another victim, this time their son Gage.
This is the point from which the spookiness actually begins, but it is toned down by the fact that what follows is quite predictable. Louis, in his mourning and despair, does what everyone expects him to do, while those who could stop him being detained by the power that grows in the burial ground. The mysterious figure of the Wendigo, a long lost story from Rachel’s childhood and some very bad decisions all come to haunt Louis and his family, ending this book in a not-such-a-happy way.
Unfortunately, the really interesting events of this book could have been summed up in a short story in my opinion; and what this book turned out to be, for me, was more like a prequel to another book that could actually be engaging. The characters were quite plain and I didn’t feel any special connection with any of them, thus in the end their fate wasn’t such a crucial element for me as a reader and their actions felt predictable and sometimes illogical. The big power ruling the burying ground was absent most of the book, leaving it without an actual villain, which I think is another downside to the action. The few times it was present there was nothing conclusive to it, and this whole mystery seemed to actually lessen my curiosity instead of increasing it.
All in all, it’s not that it wasn’t an enjoyable book, it’s more that… there was nothing that strikes me as extraordinary or let’s say original here, just some well-known legends that are not explored to their full potential, and a whole lot of stories of some characters that turn to be less interesting than you would think.
Should you give it a try? Maybe, if you have some time to kill, but sure as hell King has better books that you could read.
Overall rating: 3 stars
Goodreads link: Pet Sematary