book-review-cujoStephen King
Viking Press
1981

The monster nevers dies.

Cujo is a two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard, the beloved family pet of the Joe Cambers of Castle Rock, Maine, and the best friend ten-year-old Brett Camber has ever had. One day Cujo pursues a rabbit into a bolt-hole–a cave inhabited by some very sick bats. What happens to Cujo, and to those unlucky enough to be near him, makes for the most heart-squeezing novel Stephen King has yet written. Vic Trenton, New York adman obsessed by the struggle to hand on to his one big account, his restive and not entirely faithful wife, Donna, and their four-year-old son, Tad, moved to Castle Rock seeking the peace of rural Maine. But life in this small town–evoked as vividly as a Winesburg or a Spoon River–is not what it seems. As Tad tries bravely to fend off the terror that comes to him at night from his bedroom closet, and as Vic and Donna face their own nightmare of a marriage suddenly on the rocks, there is no way they can know that a monster, infinitely sinister, waits in the daylight, and that the fateful currents of their lives will eddy closer and faster to the horrifying vortex that is Cujo.

This was the very first Stephen King novel I ever read. This was back in the Spring of 1988, when I was in 8th grade; I had to pick a book to read for a book report in my English class. Having been recently intrigued about this “Stephen King” person by my English teacher (who would regal us about the books plots), then fortuitously stumbling upon my mother’s old hidden stash of mass paperback in the basement of my home which featured three Stephen King books. I chose the one that didn’t seem as long as the others: Cujo.

Having been made curious about the author at a young age by the descriptions of his supernatural horror books, it’s rather…I don’t think “ironic” would be the proper word, but considering it was one of his non-supernatural based horror thrillers that was my first book to read is at least amusing. Regardless, at the age of 14, I found myself sucked in to the story of two distinct families from different backgrounds suddenly finding themselves terrorized by a Saint Bernard with rabies. One of the families, the couple are having marital troubles and have just moved to Castle Rock, Maine from New York to try and pick up the pieces. The other family just happen to be the owners of the titular Cujo; the dog itself is a sweet, gentle giant of a dog that only gets violent after contracting rabies from a bat after chasing a bunny. Cujo manages to kill his owner and traps a mother and her son inside their Ford Pinto, where they spend the later half of the book trying to figure out how to escape with their lives. It doesn’t end well, let’s just say.

What struck me as I read the book, as it does now, that there was no real stark and clean contrast of Good vs. Evil. There really is no “evil”, per say; just a good dog that had the unfortunate circumstance of contracting a virus that caused him to fear and lash out of everything and everything. This was a very tense novel, and while it didn’t make me a complete Stephen King addict at the time, it did make me want to explore more of his work from there.

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