Two words come into mind when I think of BAG OF BONES --- vintage King.
The story revolves more around the imagination and mental games that surrounded the early works of King than it does around blood and gore. And the fact that the gristle is missing does not have the story lacking --- not in the least bit.
As the book opens Mike Noonan, a bestselling novelist has just lost his wife to a brain aneurysm. Noonan has just discovered that his wife Johanna was pregnant with their daughter when she died, so his loss is doubled.
Driven by the need to discover why Johanna kept her pregnancy from him, Mike investigates her death. His investigation leads us to King's usual geographical surroundings --- the story begins in Derry, Maine. There Mike starts to experience all kinds of ghost activities in his summer home --- aptly named Sara Laughs --- which is located in an area called TR-90. There he finds himself unable to write. Even an attempt to write throws him into a panic attack. He starts having nightmares which occur with more and more frequency. The ritual that he and Johanna once practiced --- Johanna typed the last line of every novel --- is not longer possible. Nor is there anyone with whom to clink the empty champagne flute.
He traces Johanna's steps and discovers many things that make him question himself and their relationship. He is driven to do things he doesn’t understand, but he is unable to stop himself. What drove his wife's behavior? Was it another man? Or something else that she has learned?
Shortly after Mike arrives and is settled in to Sara Laughs, he rescues Kyra, a 3-year-old girl who is walking down the middle of a highway. Through Kyra, Mike meets Mattie --- Kyra's mother --- and a close bond develops almost immediately among the three of them. A romantic interest even sparks between Mike and Mattie. Later Mike discovers that Kyra can read his mind.
Mike hires a lawyer to represent Mattie against her evil, wicked and twisted father-in-law, Max Devore, who is seeking custody of Kyra. Max has the whole town in his pocket and uses some methods to win Kyra which are pretty frightening.
BAG OF BONES is an intricately woven story --- full of emotion and energy. As the back cover so aptly puts it, BAG OF BONES is a haunted love story. To write again Mike will need to listen to the woman he loved and kill an image from the past. He also must cope with more loss from the new life he has created for himself.
King creates a warm, likeable, believable character in Mike. You feel his nightmares. You laugh at the wry humor that King is so good at portraying through his characters.
While BAG OF BONES is not a "gory" read, it does have death. Here the character portrayal is again so strong that each loss is felt --- and remembered.
Knowing how King has repeated characters such as Thad Beaumont (THE DARK HALF) and Bill Denbrough (IT), and places such as Castle Rock and Derry, I can’t help but hope that there will be another book where we’ll see these characters again. I was left with too many questions unanswered. Since King uses the same characters often, I wonder if the TR will be the new Castle Rock? As Johanna always said, "then that's all right, isn't it?"
Reviewed by Marlene Taylor on January 21, 2011