Ever seen a ghost? I…think I did once. Maybe twice. I lived in an allegedly haunted house when I was a kid. My mom and one of my sisters claim to have seen her once or twice. Not me though, and it wasn’t for lack of yearning. I mean, I may have seen a shadow move, but not in the sense of Jamie Conklin, Stephen King’s latest minstrel from his novel, Later. Jamie sees ghosts all over. Sitting on bus benches, standing on sidewalks, scratching their butts, probably. It’s something he was born with, and oh is it fun to hear him talk about it…
Later is told from Jamie’s perspective. He’s in his 30s when he’s telling his story, but the book takes place from when he was a kidlet, to when he was 15. Ghosts all over, and a comparison is drawn to the kid from The 6th Sense, but Jamie’s rendition is a little different. His ghosts see him, talk to him, they have no emotions, and (here’s the kicker) they must tell the truth whenever he asks them a question. It’s in their DNA –or should I say GNA? This turns out to be a real boon for Tia, Jamie’s mom, and her friend (with benefits), Liz, an NYPD gumshoe. Want to know who killed whom? Just ask the homicide victim. Duh.
Tia is a literary agent and single mother. As the book takes place, in part, during that really fun economic meltdown of 2007/8, things aren’t exactly peachy nor keen for Jamie’s mom. Of course, being a literary agent, she takes her son’s word that some dead men actually do tell tales. A single mom who’s housing an only child, Tia and her son rely on each other to be each other’s rock through the swift currents of life. Not to mention the wispy trickle of the afterlife.
Combine the needs of Jamie, Tia and Liz, their relationships to one another, and throw in a dash of spectral whims, and you get a great story, told from the perspective of a narrator who has charm buoyed by hilarious witticisms. Talk about a great read? Yes and indeed.
But, being a Stephen King story, that’s of course not all to the equation. Turns out ghosts can also be channelled by unsavoury demons. And once they get your number, they tend to opt for redial. Not a mutually productive relationship.
This book runs a course that I found unpredictable and very fun. Most times when I thought I knew what was coming, shit got rerouted. I also loved reading the first-person perspective of Jamie. He had me hooked from the get. His modest sass and brilliant quips give him more personality than even some of the non-ghost people I know. This book suggests room for a sequel, and I look forward to kicking it with Jamie again.
The only kink in my orb of appreciation for this book was a part in which the narrator spoke of Shawshank Redemption like it was, you know, a movie. This kind of separated the story from the Stephen King universe, showing that it isn’t taking place in the world where Shawshank State Prison is an actual place. While it tilted me askew for a moment, I decided Later must be in some other realm of Stephen King-ism, and I should just relax and enjoy.
And boy did I enjoy.
I highly recommend Later. It’s like a letter to non-Stephen King fans for Stephen King fans to wave and be like, “Just read it, dude. You’ll see…” …oh so much more than dead people.