Earlier this month, I finally got around to finishing “Misery,” one of Stephen King’s most famous books. Having seen the film adaptation many years ago, I already knew what to expect before I even began reading. Little did I know that the book would be even more compelling than the film.
The protagonist of the story, Paul Sheldon, is a famous author. However, his stories are not thrillers or fantasies. Instead, he writes sappy books of the “Twilight” or “Fifty Shades of Grey” variety: romance novels with predictable plots and one dimensional characters.
Each of his novels consists of his “Misery” series, detailing the trials and tribulations of the books’ heroine, Misery Chastain.
While driving back to California from Colorado to deliver the manuscript for his new novel “Fast Cars,” Paul crashes his vehicle and gets rendered unconscious. Just then, a certain someone stumbles across the wreckage.
Paul awakes to find himself lying in a bed with both of his legs completely shattered and in intense pain. As he shakes the cobwebs from his hazy memory, he finds his savior standing over him—his self described “number one fan,” Annie Wilkes.
A middle aged loner, Annie initially comes across as a folksy farm girl who detests swearing of any kind (referring to swearers and people who piss her off in general as “dirty birds”).
She explains how she’s read every single book from the “Misery” series, her enthusiasm both flattering and slightly unnerving Paul, though he shrugs it off. Annie provides meals and pain medication for him in between reading the newest “Misery” book. Though seriously injured and in pain, all seems well for the author.
However, Paul learns that her cheerful, mild mannered demeanor is nothing more than a facade, a flimsy lid over a simmering, soon to be boiling pot of rage.
Annie soon discovers that the Misery Chastain character has been killed off at the end of the latest installment of “Misery”, as Paul expresses to her that he wants to move beyond corny romance novels and plans to start writing more serious books, hence his “Fast Cars” manuscript.
Little by little over the course of the story, Annie’s psychosis becomes more and more prevalent, as Paul discovers that evil often presents itself as a helping hand.
In one scene, Annie returns home from the store with an old, used typewriter. For what purpose? For Paul to write a new “Misery” novel just for her and to bring Misery Chastain back from the dead, less—she not so subtly implies—that Paul should lose his own life.
Being tortured and starved for months, Paul’s life rests in Annie’s hands. To stress this point, while in the grips of pain and mania, he internally refers to his captor as “goddess” several times, with King underscoring the near futility of Paul’s situation and possibly playing on a psychosexual motif.
Much like Stephen King’s “Carrie,” which I read back in high school, this book gave me feelings of anticipation and anxiety as I turned the pages. Though it starts off kind of slow and tends to trudge along in some sections, this is a book that I highly recommend.