I rarely get emotional while reading a novel, but Doctor Sleep managed to make me burst into tears in its final pages. It’s a moment in the novel that feels inevitable long before it occurs, but when it arrives, it still manages to pack a punch. Of course, as my mother won’t let me forget, Stephen King was also responsible for another famed tear burst from me when I was eight. That was due to the ending of the film adaptation of The Green Mile. While King is famed for his twisted imagination, I’ve always found his ability to conjure catharsis just as powerful as his macabre touches.
But maybe I just connected more with Danny Torrance on a personal level then I’d ever realized before. I picked up Doctor Sleep immediately after finishing The Shining. I’d bought it years ago knowing I’d get to it one day. I’d put off reading The Shining for years because I didn’t want to ruin the movie on myself (I figured I’d be unable to enjoy Kubrick’s work after seeing the true vision). Thankfully, I was happy to discover that my heart had room for both versions of The Shining.
While I loved The Shining, I came into Doctor Sleep with low expectations. I’d heard a lot of negative buzz surrounding the book a few years back. After reading the novel, I must say I don’t agree with what I’d heard in the past. I thoroughly enjoyed this work. Not only was I rushing through the pages for the majority of the novel (a King tradition), but I was catching tons of great connections to The Shining. For instance, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death is referenced throughout The Shining, and Stephen King finds fun ways to work in new references to it, without actually mentioning it, in Doctor Sleep. A small plot point is that the villains of the story get the measles, a disease that manifests as red bumps ala the red death. There’s also a climactic moment where Dan Torrance manifests a literal red death, but I don’t want to get too spoiler-y in my review.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I felt the opening pages flew by a little quicker than some of the middle sections, but I think that’s typical of most novels. The transition to the secondary protagonist, Abra, felt a little clunky at first, but King eventually found her voice and made her a joy to read. There’s even a twist in the back half of the novel that managed to surprise me, I’d noticed the heavy foreshadowing to it, but I failed to puzzle out the meaning before the revelation. If you’re a King fan or just a fan of The Shining, you should love this book. Now, I can’t wait to see the film adaptation.