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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Holloway

On Stephen King's "Bag of Bones"

"Bag of Bones" is only further proof of why King is king.

While it's not my favorite of his works, I will say that he is the literary authority on constructing one tiny town and fleshing out so many crooked characters, events, and timelines that span nearly one hundred years, and he does it masterfully.

Michael Noonan is a millionaire author whose world is flipped on its head when his loving wife, Jo, suddenly dies of an aneurism in the middle of a drugstore parking lot. Four years later, the grief is still thick and manifests into writer's block so severe that even if he tries to sit down and write, he vomits, convulses, and has to set his pages aside. It's only when he decides to move to his summer home, Sara Laughs, that the words begin to slowly come back to him. And though the creaky old house encourages Mike to write, he is plagued by vicious nightmares. Being in the house unsettles him, but it's the only place he can finish his latest masterpiece.

As he spends his time perusing the old house, he discovers that Jo may have been pregnant when she died, a secret she never told him. But why would she keep such a secret from him, and why had she been visiting Sara Laughs without him months before her death? What other secrets had she taken to the grave?

Enter Kyra Devore, a fiercely independent 4-year-old tomboy walking down the middle of the dangerous highway along Dark Score Lake. Mike rescues her from being run over, and returns her to her widowed young mother, Mattie. Though he is twenty years her senior, he is instantly stricken with Mattie. Mike develops a strong, almost fatherly bond with young Kyra and decides that after four years of being a widower, he is ready to find love again.

But there's a problem.

Mattie's billionaire father-in-law, computer tycoon Max Devore, despises her and is ruthless in his attempts to steal Kyra, his granddaughter, away. Mattie is destitute and has no way of keeping Kyra out of Max's reach. Mike, however, has the money, the clout, and the lawyers to help the young mother keep Kyra out of her grandfather's desperate hands. Max sets his sights on Mike and threatens to end not only Mattie's life, but his as well.

The brilliant narrative that follows is flooded with the town's sinister past, involving fathers drowning their children to satiate ghosts that threaten to plunge the town (and its people) straight into hell. And this is the main reason why Max is so desperate to obtain Kyra.

"Bag of Bones" is not only brilliant because of the long and labyrinthine plot, but because King shows a side of his writing that is very un-King. It is sweet in places, particularly in Mike's love for Mattie and Kyra. King shows that his stories aren't just about blood, ghosts, and gore. These pages show his humanity, his raw descriptions of love, loss, pain, and renewal.

It is an emotionally-moving story, as much as it is terrifying.

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