A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wonder and joy

Stephen King's Joyland was a rich and enjoyable summer reading experience.  Just don't expect the torrid crime novel the cover promises.  No, what you get here is a gentle tale, set during the summer of 1973, about a decent young man named Devin Jones- his heart recently broken- who takes a job at an amusement park during his summer break from college. The friends he makes at the park, his immersion into "carny" life, and some extra special friends he makes during his walk to and from the park every day via the beach, all fuel a gentle, involving slice-of-life tale about a young man confronting the joys and trials of growing up.

Yes, there is a crime story in the book- rooted in a years-old unsolved murder that took place in Joyland's sole dark, scary ride- but the investigation of the old crime by Devin and his friends only lightly peppers the bulk of the book, and only comes to dominate the story in the last thirty pages or so.  The crime story is a good one, filled with tension and danger as the old murder threatens to make way for a new one, but it's only a small part of a book that's pretty much dominated by those other, gentler elements I mentioned.  If you're okay with that you'll be fine.

And- oh, yes- there are some ghostly, supernatural elements, too- not surprising, given the author.  They're pretty well done, too.  But what you'll probably remember most about Joyland- which inexplicably is being marketed as an old-fashioned pulpy crime novel- is spending a gentle, wondrous, and- yes- often sad summer with Devin and his friends Erin, Tom, Annie, and Mike (the last a young boy you won't soon forget), and how they all made a deep, powerful impression on Devin just when he needed it most.