Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
Gerald’s Game is one of the few Stephen King novels I have not read, so when I picked it up I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for. It was one of those novels I was hesitant about picking up–how could King write 300 pages about a woman being tied to a bed, and still make it interesting?
Overshadowed by some of his more popular novels, such as IT, Gerald’s Game focuses less on horror of the alien and unknown and more on the horror of the self. The story follows a woman named Jessie, who travels to a cabin with her husband Gerald for a romantic getaway. To spice things up a bit Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the bed for some kinky sexytimes. Jessie, already unhappy with her marriage, has second thoughts about this “experiment” and asks Gerald to stop. When he refuses, Jessie kicks him. Gerald suffers a heart attack, leaving Jessie naked and handcuffed to the bed, unable to free herself or help Gerald, now dead on the floor.
Over the course of twenty-eight hours Jessie recalls her father’s sexual abuse, looks back closely on her life, and really, really wants a drink of water. All the while she fears being watched by an intruder in the house.
The story’s strengths lie in King’s oddly specific details, and the horror of a romantic getaway gone wrong, and Jessie’s deteriorating emotional state that eventually propels her into her escape. As Jessie lies there she remembers her past, which make up the bulk of the book.
It is no doubt horror. Horror not only from the claustrophobic situation, but of the situations leading up to it. A pattern of betrayal from men in her life she trusted–first her father, and then her husband refusing to stop his game when she asked. I ended up reading this book every night until I finished it in a week. However, I had to stop when Jessie escaped her handcuffs. Though I don’t normally get nauseated when reading horror, there was something very unnerving about the degloving scene. Because there is hardly an antagonist, save for the dog formerly known as Prince and the mysterious night-time visitor, the focus on the gory details lies as naked and exposed on the page as Jessie is on the bed.
The ending could have been stronger, and carries a similar tone to the ending of Misery: our hero escapes, but is no longer the same. The revelation of the identity of her mysterious visitor punctures the emotional fallout and resolution I was looking for.
Although not one of King’s better books, Gerald’s Game is a quick read and demonstrates King’s ability to delve into a character’s mind and spin it out into 300 pages. If you enjoyed Misery, then you might also enjoy this story, as it also takes place in one setting and focuses on internal character development. However, if another Pennywise you are looking for, then you may find yourself disappointed. Overall I enjoyed the story, and do not regret reading it.