“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home to you.”
TITLE & AUTHOR: Pet Sematary by Stephen King
PUBLISHED : October 1st 1983 by Doubleday
MY RATING: 5/5
When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son—and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat.
But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth—more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.
My first King book was unfortunately Cell, as my mom took it out of the library as soon it came out, and I asked to read it. For a while I genuinely thought King was overrated, based on Cell and the few movies I saw and their lousy production. The next one I read was Shining, then Misery, and it didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was, and to figure out why the movies, especially the old ones, are not even close to the epics King writes.
Now, already knowing what King can do, I expected Pet Sematary to be nothing less than perfect, and for me it was. It’s described as one of his scariest novels, and so far I agree, but not for the obvious reasons. Where the movies deal with resurrection and zombies as the main plot, the book is even scarier because it deals with the fear of death and the consequences of the choices the main character, Louis makes.
Louis moves from Chicago to a small town in Maine with his wife Rachel, daughter Ellie and toddler Gage, along with Ellie’s cat Church. They have a hard time adjusting to new surroundings because Ludlow it’s nothing like the bustling Chicago – there’s less work for Louis, who’s a doctor, Rachel has to stay at home with kids, and Ellie thinks she won’t like her new school and friends. But as many things are smaller in small towns, some things, like beliefs, are infinitely larger. The family’s new land spreads a long way behind the house, and into the woods, encompassing a pet cemetery made by local kids, and a dark and long stretch of woods behind it, which is blocked by a deadfall. Something is lurking behind it, and it’s powerful.
Almost nothing terrible happens until the last 20%, but the book isn’t boring at all, it’s a slow-burner, in the best possible way. King grapples the fear of death and its permanence masterfully. He explores death through Rachel, who lost her sister as a kid in the most traumatic way, and she still has major regrets and a horrible fear of death. Louis deals with it as he loses a young patient in a horrible blink of an eye. Ellie has questions about an old neighbor’s death, and if cats meet the same end, and when. And why. Loss is abound in this novel, and all the characters are hit by its permanence.
The supernatural slowly creeps in and intertwines with the day-to-day life. The power behind the deadfall is strong, and its strongest call is to the ones it privately knows, like Louis’s new neighbor and friend, the elderly Jud. After Church the cat is struck by a truck on the road, one moment of weakness is enough for Jud to succumb to the ancient power and to do Louis a favor everyone will later regret. But power or no, I understand the temptation.
It could be a different experience for everyone, but I doubt it – if you’ve ever lost anyone you loved, you’ll know the hysteria that kicks in – you immediately remember when was the last time you saw the person, because you wish it had been sooner to this moment; you remember the last words you said to them, and you regret they weren’t I love you, and even if they were, they somehow fall short, because you feel the otherworldly need to bring the person back, just to explain to them how much you love and care for them, because three words aren’t enough, not now. Those are the things that kick in first, and they stay with you forever in a form of regret. It gets easier to fight it as the years go by, but in the hour of death it’s so heavy it can’t let you breathe and think clearly. And in that moment you are weak as you never were. As Louis, a doctor, often mentions, death is natural, it’s a part of life. But when he comes face to face with it, and see it for what it is – terrible and permanent – he’ll willingly turn to supernatural. I would too.
Stephen Edwin King is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy novels. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television series, and comic books. King has published 58 novels (including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman) and six non-fiction books. He has written approximately 200 short stories, most of which have been published in book collections.
King has received Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and British Fantasy Society Awards. In 2003, the National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has also received awards for his contribution to literature for his entire oeuvre, such as the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (2004), and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America (2007). In 2015, King was awarded with a National Medal of Arts from the United States National Endowment for the Arts for his contributions to literature. He has been described as the “King of Horror”.