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When the shadow of the town's new minister falls over six-year old Jamie Morton as he plays outside of his New England home, the boy is momentarily blinded as he looks up to try to discern the nature of this new arrival. This is a theme which continues throughout the narrative of Stephen King's latest novel, Revival, published by Scribner in 2014.
Revival, set in King's beloved Maine, not far from the fictional town of Castle Rock, chronicles Morton's life from six-year-old to a professional musician in his sixties as he comes to terms with his lifelong on-again and off-again with drug addiction, women, music, and the Reverend Charles Jacobs. Morton has grown to believe that the Reverend Jacobs serves as his fifth business, a character like one found in the movies, whose allegiance is never fully revealed but who always seems to pop up in unexpected places, much like a joker in a deck of cards, and plays the role of change agent.
Charming and well-liked by a community which has also embraced his beautiful young wife and young son, Charles Jacobs also has a fascination for the untapped and relatively unexplored power of electricity, with which he comes to perform minor miracles. When tragedy strikes the young minster and his family, Reverend Jacobs emerges from his pain to deliver a sermon, later known as the infamous terrible sermon, which results in his exile from church and home, and leaves a powerful impression on young the young Jamie.
As Jamie grows older, his love of musicianship and women eclipse the memories of his past. It isn't until much later, when Jamie is a middle-aged man and has hit the bottom of his addiction habit, that he meets Reverend Jacobs again, now calling himself Pastor Danny. Jamie discovers in Pastor Danny a new found mission: uncovering the mysteries of the secret electricity. With the assistance of this mysterious force, Pastor Danny's miracles have grown to all-out cures. When Pastor Danny uses this secret electricity to treat Jamie's affliction, Jamie cannot help but wonder at the price he will pay for his new health and physical well-being.
King takes needed time with his narrative here, delving into the exploits of a broken man as he reminisces about his past and worries over a darkened future. There are certainly a few vividly described nightmares and visions throughout, but the horrific consequences of meddling with powers and forces beyond human understanding (an articulated and acknowledged nod to the likes of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and, well, anything by H. P. Lovecraft)) don't become fully apparent until the final pages of the book. King makes slight hints at these horrors to come, but Jamie's reluctant relationship with Reverend Jacobs is the highlight of this book. I would like to have seen more about the clear and established bond forged between Jamie and the reverend in 1962; while it is implied, the decades-long connection between the characters is never fully explored. Indeed, the stated supernatural connection revealed at book's end is in many ways far less intriguing than the potential of the human connection at work between Jamie and Reverend Jacobs/Pastor Danny.
As I often find, Stephen King's narrative flows like the words of an old and comforting friend you see maybe once or twice a year. If you haven't read the author's work lately, then Revival would be a good and symbolic way to reconnect.
Revival was purchased for review with personal funds.
Content copyright © 2015 by Justin D. Davis. All rights reserved.
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