Goodreads Review — Cujo by Stephen King

Cujo by Stephen King

Cujo by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*disclaimer – Cujo is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE BOOKS, and not because I have a Saint Bernard 😉 And yes, this review has spoilers*

Quite frankly, Cujo has it all — intersecting plot lines, absolutely amazing characters*, great pacing, high stakes (never mind the rabid dog, we’re already worried about Vic Trenton’s employment instability and Donna’s affair gone bad), themes of motherhood and sacrifice, as well as poverty, both living with, and fear of are the real boogie men here — Cujo is the kind of book that if you read it a few times, and dissected it thoroughly, you might come to understand what a novel is about.

First up — this is a book about being poor, and how scary being broke with no clear way out of it can be. Vic is about to lose his job, and leaves town to try to rescue it. Donna’s car is misfiring, and she has to take it to a mechanic, preferably the cheapest one possible. Her snack to bring to the garage consists of fridge leftovers (cucumber slices and a few olives), and a thermos of milk. There are no commercially bought foods here, except for the breakfast cereal that her husband brings home — not to be healthy, but because they’re broke. Which leads Donna to taking her old, rundown car to the cheapest garage in the area, Joe Cambers’ place out in the boonies, where, on the ride there Donna passes children standing with ‘their distended potbellies full of worms,’ just another roadside sight in rural Maine.

Vic and Donna Trenton are well-off compared to the Cambers. And, it is Joe Cambers’ wife, Charity, who kicks the whole thing off by winning a local lottery, and taking her son, Brett, to visit her more affluent sister (after essentially bribing her husband for permission to go). Charity wants Brett to see how people of a different social class live, in hopes that he will get an education and leave a life of poverty behind. She makes sure there is enough leftover from the lottery winnings to go toward Brett’s college fund. During Charity’s visit with her sister, a few things rub her the wrong way (such as the rack of credit cards her sister has in her purse, and the ‘show off’ aspect of consumerism), but she consistently tries to do right by her son, showing him different parts of the world, and even staying with a man she despises to give economic stability to her kid.

I’m not going to go through the plot of the rabid Saint Bernard, because most folks know it already (dog chased a rabbit, got bit by a rabid bat, killed some people), and when the Cambers left town, the dog was left behind. Donna and Tad pulled into the Cambers’ place, and they encounter the dog, who at this point was now fully rabid.

Here’s where the ‘closed box’ horror comes in — Donna and Tad are trapped in the broken down car, and stuck in the Cambers’ yard with Cujo. In the heat, for days.

For me, the real sacrifice occurs as Donna tries to make Tad’s last few hours as comfortable as possible, and tries to normalize a terrifying situation for her son’s well being. Her whole rationale in not leaving the car early in the story is her fear of her son watching her get killed by the dog; it is only as the dog weakens that she takes her chance.

And ultimately, it is all in vain, but if that’s not maternal sacrifice, I don’t know what is.

* re the characters — they are all truly fantastic, because they are so damned real — the mail delivery guy who lifts his leg and farts while driving, the Cambers’ drunken next door neighbour who pisses on a honeysuckle bush — these are the people we know about, and respect because of their honestly, not because they’re really nice people. (Joe Cambers is an abusive @sshole, but he’s not ‘all’ bad.) Stephen King does an excellent job portraying the subtleties of human nature; and for me, that’s where the true horror comes in 😉

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Goodreads Review — The Shining by Stephen King

Cover of The Shining by Stephen King – image from Amazon

The Shining by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s hard to think of clever words to say about this Stephen King classic, other reviewers, & popular culture have said so much about it already.

But, if I could offer advice, dear reader as you approach this book for the first or millionth time – is to look for the themes in it, bypass the spooky stuff, and what you have at the heart of the story is a woman trapped in an unfulfilled life, and a whole family held hostage by a father’s mental illness & addiction issues. They went to the hotel because Jack lost his job due to his anger & instability… as the primary earner for the family things were in rough shape before they even set foot in the Overlook.

The Outlook simply magnified things to horrific proportions, but the heart of the story is that of a domestic abuse situation; Jack as the abusive partner, who truly cares for his child, but cannot manage his own illness that is quickly destroying everything he cares about.

And that is truly scary.

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Goodreads Review – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson on Amazon

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

there are some serious spoilers in this review, but if you’re brave enough, read on

Full confession — I loooove the character of Merricat and the borderline incestuous relationship she has with her sister, Constance. Merricat is alternately infantilized and demonized, and the result is fantastic.

In this novel Shirley Jackson plays with the duality of good and evil, as well as the power of loyalty; Constance remains nearly blind to Merricat’s misdeeds, while Merricat acts as her devoted servant and surrogate child.

This is a novel where ‘bad things happen’ and everyone is both good, and bad. Merricat’s strong willed nature gets her in trouble with her family, and her response to being punished is to poison them all except Constance. Villagers then talk, and Merricat is the subject of gossip, and feared as she walks through the village to pick up household supplies; yet, as it turns out it is Merricat who is equally terrified of the villagers who literally throw stones at her as she passes. Later in the novel, Merricat’s response to Constance’s emerging romance with a relative who has their eye on their wealth and property is to burn the place down; the local villagers join in the destruction, stealing valuable items and destroying property.

It is interesting that in the conclusion it is the villagers who are most repentant; Merricat and Constance remain hidden in the remains of their demolished house, safely isolated from the rest of the world; as Merricat always wanted.

Jackson’s own experiences living in a small town in Vermont among local townspeople and all their biases often crept into her work (‘After You, Alfonse’, ‘The Lottery’, and ‘Flower Garden’, among others). This experience likely influenced her final scenes in ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ in which the villagers were literally throwing stones at the house.

You can see my reviews at & be sure to visit my Goodreads Author Page