Jessie and her husband have a game. He locks her up in real handcuffs, she pretends she doesn’t like it and wants to be set free. Except this time, she really does…
Every time I picked this book up, I was surprised by how far into it I was. I got to page two hundred or so, and realised nothing much had happened. That isn’t, by the way, a criticism, but praise of King’s writing skill. Who else could keep you turning the pages when all that’s happening is backstory? And it’s fairly obvious early on what’s at the bottom of Jessie’s backstory, at that.
So for most of the book, we get flashbacks into Jessie’s life, working backwards through her college years and to a solar eclipse when she was ten years old that defined and marred the rest of her life, until she finds herself submissive enough to be chained to a bed in the middle of nowhere with handcuffs she can’t escape from.
But what also kept me reading was how King was going to pull this off and get Jessie out of there. It didn’t seem likely he would kill her off at the end...Likely, but not impossible.
So those small things kept me reading for the three hundred or so pages, until something did happen. When the climax of the book arrives, it’s over in thirty breathless pages or so, and…
…that’s when it all fell apart. King spends the next twenty pages explaining the backstory of another character, before we finally get to Jessie’s ending (happy or otherwise, I won’t drop a spoiler).
I saw that giant epilogue when I was finishing this up last night and sighed. It felt very tacked on and unnecessary. Why not leave the ambiguity of what happened open? I hate to be vague, but unless you’ve read what went on, I don’t wish to spoil it.
This was written as a companion to Dolores Claiborne, and was meant to be a shorter story. There are elements there that mix in with Dolores: A single woman desperate and under pressure, incestuous fathers and abusive relationships. Tying them together is the single eclipse that changes both Dolores’s life and Jessie’s. I didn’t feel like I needed to have read DC to have read this though.
I wish I’d warmed to Jessie more and liked her better. I wasn’t rooting for her as much as I was for Dolores, which was a shame. Her passive personality annoyed me more than Dolores, although I understand why she was like it.
And as deep and exhaustive as her backstory was, I still don’t feel like I know her.