King of the Dark Episode 12: Lisey’s Story

Welcome back to King of the Dark, our special series on the B&N Podcast devoted to the fictional creations of Stephen King.  Every week, Liz Braswell and Louis Peitzman join B&N’s Bill Tipper for a deep dive into some of the most arresting works from the enormous Stephen bookshelf. This week we’ve arrived at King’s 2006 novel Lisey’s Story. Stephen King has worked aspects of his personal life — the places he has lived, his personal obsessions and struggles — into so many of his novels that it feels tough to call out any one of them as especially personal. But the origin of Lisey’s Story is, according to the author himself, deeply connected to a critical event in King’s life, the aftermath of his brush with death after being struck by a van. It’s the imagined story of an acclaimed writer’s widow — the Lisey of the title — reluctantly confronting the strange circumstances or her late husband’s gift. Magic, madness and nightmarish horror all play a role, but there’s an unusually elegiac note that runs through Lisey’s Story, the novel that the writer has called his favorite. Early on, Liz and Louis and Bill decided that they had to try to discover what set this one apart for the novelist.

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The “haunting…tender, intimate book that makes an epic interior journey” (The New York Times), Lisey’s Story is a literary masterpiece—an extraordinarily moving and haunting portrait of a marriage and its aftermath.

Lisey lost her husband Scott two years ago, after a twenty-five year marriage of profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey knew there was a place Scott went—a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to face Scott’s demons, to go to that terrifying place known as Boo’ya Moon. What begins as a widow’s effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited.

“Intricate…Exhilirating” (The New Yorker), perhaps Stephen King’s most personal and powerful novel ever, Lisey’s Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love. It is a beautiful, “rich portrait of a marriage, and the complicated affection that outlives death” (The Washington Post).

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