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King could have explored so much more with this story...
on 9 January 2009
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Pet Sematary was my first Stephen King novel. Though not a major disappointment, the book did not fulfil the expectations I had in mind when starting off. Since I finished the book about a week ago, I have not lost the feeling that King could have explored so much more.
The basic plot of the story can be summarised in a few sentences: Louis Creed and his wife Rachel move together with their two young children, Ellie and Gage, to Maine, where Dr Creed takes up a new job in the Univeristy's medical centre. Soon after settling at their new home, Dr Creed becomes friends with Jud, his elderly neighbour, who has lived in the house opposite all his life. Jud takes the Creed family on an excursion to the Pet Sematary, a place where local children bury their dead pets. Most of the pets buried in this cemetery are victims of the heavy traffic on the road, which also happens to run past the Creed family home.
A few months down the line, whilst Rachel and the children are spending Thanksgiving with Rachel's parents in Chicago, the Creeds' cat, Church, is run over by a lorry. Initially, Louis is at a loss and does not know how to break the news to his daughter. During the very same night, however, Jud comes up with a solution to Louis's problem and takes him beyond the Pet Sematary to an ancient Micmac burial site, where Church is subsequently entombed. A few days later Church returns, but only his outer shell resembles the tomcat he once was.
Nevertheless, life goes on in the Creed family household, and even though the cat's behaviour has altered significantly, the events of this fateful night remain Louis's secret. Tragedy returns when Gage, the youngest child, is fatally injured on the same road. Unable to cope with his son's death, Louis decides to bury Gage at the Micmac burial ground against Jud's ominous warnings...
Contrary to the experiences of other reviewers, I found Pet Sematary to be a very emotional book. Rather than inducing feelings of suspense or fear, in my own opinion the novel conveys the moral message that, even if we had the power to awaken the dead, it is more fruitful (and safer) to come to terms with the death of a loved one. King's novel was most convincing when talking about Louis's feelings of guilt after his son's tragic death. Altogether I felt that the book was too long and contained too many, superfluous details. At the same time, following Gage's return and his somewhat inexplicable killing spree, it felt that King was almost in a rush to end the story. Whilst he fills pages talking about the return of the tomcat and his changed appearance, it is hard to form an impression of Gage after his return from the burial ground. Frankly, I couldn't quite understand why he would return and kill both Jud as well as his mother straight away. The story therefore effectively ended when it could have become most intrigiung. Rather than killing most off the characters off, I think it would have been quite interesting to witness Gage interact with the remaining members of his family...