Synopsis: A beautiful photographer is driving home one night when a car swerves past her and kills two pedestrians. Although she escapes the accident without harm, she has trouble shaking off the after effects...and comes to unsettling crossroads in her life. Soon she marries a local hockey star whose raucous lifestyle leads to a divorce. Then a scheming local cop, who has pursued her since the accident, takes advantage of her, and she marries again...and falls into a near-fatal mistake!
What happened to Tabitha King? Specifically, what happened to Tabitha King between 1988 and 1993? 1988 saw the publication of Pearl, Stephen King's wife's fourth novel and (in my opinion) her crowning achievement. A sublime meditation on small-town life and personal achievement, I finished that book in two days with tears in my eyes and a new sense of optimism about my fellow friends and neighbors. It was one of those books -- the kind that sticks with you forever. That's not to say the books that came before that one weren't good -- quite the opposite, in fact. Small World, while obviously a debut novel, is a fun and imaginative sci-fi tale with two very memorable main characters. Caretakers, King's second novel, fully shows her growth and maturation as a writer. The Trap is perhaps the closest Tabby King comes to actual "horror" (for some reason, most folks assume Mrs. King writes scary stories because of who her spouse is), but it is her own thing.
However... after 1988, Mrs. King took a 5-year hiatus from writing. I don't know why -- maybe she just wasn't feeling inspired at the time. Maybe she lost her confidence from being in the shadows of her husband. Both of these reasons are completely valid. I'm not sure if either of those reasons are why she stopped writing for so long, but whatever the cause... she changed in those years. 1993's One On One, the closest King comes to young adult fiction, introduced a few things that would plague all of her work throughout the '90s -- namely uninteresting/idiotic male characters, insanely emotional/irrational female characters, and an utter fixation on sex. Seriously -- there is a reference to it (usually as crude and indiscreet as possible) on almost every page, if not every page, in One On One, The Book of Reuben, and Survivor. If her characters ain't throwing dishes or beating each other, they're hitting the sheets and wondering why sex (usually unprotected and as nasty as possible) is causing so many problems... so, naturally, the only solution is more sex. The sex is usually followed by verbal abuse, one of the two leaving, then coming back, rinse and repeat for 400 pages. Seriously, folks. I am not exaggerating.
Now, I am, by no means, a prude. I am a 19 years old college guy. I like to think of myself as a very open-minded, non-prudey fellow who doesn't mind sex in literature at all... if it's written well and/or has a point. Tabitha King's characters constantly use sex to get revenge on one another, to scorn other lovers (because literally everybody in her books has affairs), et cetera. It gets tiresome, and that's why it took me so long to read this book. I got tired of the abuse and maliciousness of these horrible people King has created. And yes, I get it -- there are real people out there like this. People use sex for power all of the time. People are hurtful and mean, and sadly... Tabby has probably painted a portrait of some actual folks in the world. However, I -- personally -- don't enjoy reading about people who have no real problems constantly creating problems for themselves and then wondering why they have problems. That's that ish I don't like.
On the flip-side, there are some things I really did like about this story. I liked Kissy's strong nature, and I absolutely loved Tabby's prose. Tabitha King could author a book of poetry and I'd buy that sucker in a flash. The first 100 or so pages were really good, and I was tricked at first into thinking Survivor was going to be better than The Book of Reuben. Both are probably equally bad, but I think I might actually like TBOR a tiny bit more if only because that book is a continuation of the Nodd's Ridge series and featured characters I already liked (albeit, they were fairly destroyed and wrangled unrecognizable in said book).
I wanted to like this book more than I actually did, and I'm sad I didn't enjoy it a whole lot because I know what Mrs. King is capable of. It's a shame she didn't publish another book after this for nine years, but maybe in that span of time she lost her utter fascination with sex and instead went back to writing spell-binding characters with depth and emotion. That book is, of course, Candles Burning which I will get to soon-ish. If you've never read Tabitha King before, do as I did and start with Small World and work your way out from there. This book isn't horrible, and in fact was quite good in a lot of places... but it's not one I'll ever come back to.