Currently Reading: Doctor Sleep

I've read The Shining countless times.  I can describe the movie to you scene by scene.  I've even watched the mini-series.  It's safe to say it's a favorite of mine.

When I first heard that Stephen King had written a sequel of sorts, I was dubious.  Sequels, prequels, spin-offs rarely work for me, especially with such a huge gap in between.  But the reviews were great and the people I'd talked to who had read it really, really liked it.  On a Christmas shopping trip to Barnes and Noble, I walked out empty-handed for other people, but with a little gift for myself.

Danny Torrance is no longer the scared little boy we last saw him as.  He has grown up, gotten control of his shining (which has also faded with age), and become an alcoholic, just like dear old Dad.  We see Danny hit rock bottom, stealing money from a young mother he just slept with, while her neglected toddler son reaches for the remains of the cocaine they did the night before.

Realizing that he needs to change, Danny finds himself in New Hampshire, accepting a job and a sponsor, and beginning his newly sober life.  He eventually moves into and works at an elderly housing facility, caring for the patients.  The town notices that he has a particular knack for helping calm his patients during their last breaths, earning him the nickname Doctor Sleep.

Down the road, a young girl is growing up with a shining of her own.  She is much stronger than Danny ever was, which makes her more dangerous, and also incredibly desirable to the True Knot, a traveling group of supernatural beings who feed on the "steam" of children who shine.  This steam is what is produced when the child is tortured and eventually killed.  

Danny and Abra's paths eventually converge, each helping the other while they battle the True Knot.  With Abra's life on the line, as well as Danny's almost decade-long sobriety, they fight an uphill battle against a group of truly evil villains, bringing Danny back to the place he always knew he had to return: The Overlook Hotel.

I devoured this book.  DT kept telling me to slow down and enjoy it, but I couldn't.  King is the master of the page-turner and this was no exception.  Reading about Danny dealing with his past at the Overlook Hotel, his feelings about his father, and his own shining was poignant, sad, beautiful, and dark.  One of the reviews I'd read said that Doctor Sleep could stand on its own, even without The Shining.  While that may be true, being familiar with The Shining brought a richness, a darkness, an understanding to Danny Torrance as an adult.

Also, to go into a little bit of life outside of the book, King has suffered from alcoholism, and has now been sober for many years.  Seeing that played out with so much honesty and rawness in the character of Danny is incredible.    

My one minor complaint is that after amazingly great and intense build-up, the final showdown between Danny and Abra and Rose, the leader of the True Knot, felt too quick.  Things panned out in a way that I wasn't expecting and was pleasantly surprised by, but it all happened a little too quickly for me, especially after hundreds of pages of setup.

But here I am rambling and unable to stop singing its praises, so in short, read The Shining and then read Doctor Sleep.  The first will give you nightmares (for life), but the second will make you remember the good things in the world.

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