How do you talk about a book that you loved and hated?
Let me explain. I have been a fan of Stephen King’s books for many years. When I first read The Stand, I read it with a high school friend many years ago. I have vivid memories of reading The Shining, my first King book. I adore many of his short stories. Night Shift is one of my favorites. I have an entire bookshelf filled with SK books. 11/22/63 is also an all-time favorite.
Yet, I never read The Long Walk. It’s set in a dystopian vision of America. Every year on May 1, one hundred teenage boys compete in “The Walk.” There is only one winner. He will receive The Prize. Anything he wants for the rest of his life.
I finished this book in one afternoon, two weeks ago. Once I started it, I was on that walk with those boys. I was all in. This was a book where I shut out everyone in my life (except the dogs). I felt everything. This is not a behemoth of a book. It’s sparse. The prose is tight. I don’t know too many authors who could write a book like this, a book about 100 kids walking, a book that left me psychologically drained.
When I finished this book, I hated it. Seriously. My first knee-jerk reaction was, “WTAF was that?” But then I gathered up some brain cells and started thinking about it. Because most of the time my knee-jerk reactions can be pointless. This book was published in 1979, when King was writing under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. But King actually wrote this book much earlier when he was a student at the University of Maine. King came of age during the Vietnam War.
I gave my copy of The Long Walk to my dad. He said, “Will I like it?” I told him I couldn’t answer that for him. After I thought about this book for two weeks, I decided I loved it. This book is one of the many reasons I love to read. I’m not doing a monthly wrap-up for August. Because this is the one book that stood out for me. That isn’t to suggest that the other books I read this month were less worthy. But this was my favorite book, the one that mattered to me the most.