book-review-pet-semataryStephen King
Doubleday
1983

We either learn to accept or we end up writing letters home with crayons.

Set in a small town in Maine to which a young doctor, Louis Creed, and his family have moved from Chicago, Pet Sematary begins with a visit to a graveyard where generations of children have buried their beloved pets. But behind the “pet sematary,” there is another burial ground, one that lures people to it with seductive promises . . . and ungodly temptations. As the story unfolds, so does a nightmare of the supernatural, one so relentless you won’t want . . . at moments . . . to continue reading . . . but will be unable to stop.

Pet Sematary is the book that, while doing some research behind the publication, Stephen King initially abandoned because he felt it was too bleak. Even his wife Tabitha and longtime friend Peter Straub agreed that it was too dark and unenjoyable. But, he eventually finished and turned in the manuscript, more because he needed one last book to finish up his contract with Doubleday.

I got around to reading Pet Sematary my Freshman year in High School. I remember wanting to use it as a book report assignment; unfortunately, the English teacher I had had a rather strict No Books That Have Been Made Into Movies policy when it came to which books I could chose. As it stood, the movie version wasn’t set to be released a good month ahead of my choosing of the book. It ultimately didn’t matter for her, so I had to choose something else.

Moving along, I read Pet Sematary anyway (in tandem with whatever book it was I chose for the assignment), and yeah, it was a pretty dark novel. And it wasn’t even because of the subject matter. Just the tone of the story was pretty heavy on the brooding, whether intentional or, more than likely, subconsciously came out in the writing.

As for the story, it’s a pretty good one, involving an ancient Native American burial ground that caused whatever–or whoever–was buried there to come back to life. Of course, reanimated corpses notwithstanding, there’s something a bit off about them once they come back from being living impaired. Something a little more sinister, if you will.

For those of us that are affected by the depictions of a pet dying…or, you know, toddlers, reading Pet Sematary will unnerve you on a certain level. I have to admit, reading this at 15, I wasn’t really all that effected by reading the 3-year-old’s rather grizzly death. Because I was 15. Nowadays, though, if I happened to read that again, it would without a doubt profoundly effect me. Regardless, though, I read the book slowly back in the day, and really took in the dark feel of the horror that crept in like a fog in the darkness. Many of the scenes in the book still stick with me after all this time.

So, just by managing to burrow its way under my skin like that, Pet Sematary is a good book. It’s also one of the more nihilistic books King has written. Keep that in mind if you venture down this path.

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