“Revival” by Stephen King

Revival by Stephen King
Scribner, 2014  403 pages

Jamie Morton is just six the day he meets Charles Jacobs, the new Methodist minister in town.  Reverend Jacobs is an amateur scientist with an interest in electricity – an interest he introduces to Jamie early on. His garage tinkering seems to be more akin to parlor tricks than science, at least at first.

Reverend Jacobs loses his family and his faith in one awful, fatal car accident. In his final sermon, remembered for years as “The Terrible Sermon,” he renounces his beliefs and curses God from the pulpit. Jacobs disappears from Jamie’s life as suddenly as he appeared.

Years later, Jamie is barely making a living as a rhythm guitarist, moving from band to band and from city to city as his heroin addiction gets the best of him. Stranded in Tulsa with a burgeoning case of the flu and just enough cash to get a little heroin and a bus ticket, Jamie finds old friend, Reverend Jacobs, performing on the midway of the Tulsa State Fair. Dan Jacobs is up to his old electrical tricks, this time creating lightening photographs. Jacobs claims to have tapped into “secret electricity,” telling the rubes at his shows that he has discovered the power that holds the universe together.

Alarmed by Jamie’s condition, Jacobs takes him in, nurses him through the flu and feeds his addiction just enough to keep the worst withdrawal symptoms away. When Jamie is well enough to talk, Jacobs offers him a cure – a life free from addiction. It seems that the secret electricity has healing powers.

Exhausted and scared, Jamie agrees. Jacobs slips a pair of headphones on Jamie’s head and turns a dial, and when Jamie wakes up, the huge monkey on his back is gone. The residual side effects are a small price to pay. A few weeks later, the fair closes up and the two men part company.

Their paths will cross twice more, as Charlie trades his carnival Dan persona for the role of evangelist. Jamie attends one of Jacobs’ tent revival meetings, and discovers that Reverend C. Danny Jacobs has honed his healing arts. As Jamie watches, Jacobs rids supplicants of migraine headaches, tumors, arthritis and more. Of course, the grateful masses are more than happy to give generously to Pastor Danny’s ministry.

Troubled by his own side effects, Jamie backtracks through Jacobs’ list of “cures.” What he finds leads him to believe that Jacob is doing as much harm as good. When Pastor Danny drops out of the public eye altogether, Jamie fears the worst. He tracks Jacobs down, only to discover that the truth is much more awful than he ever imagined.

Stephen King has done it again!  Revival is an engaging, engrossing, page-turning novel of epic proportions!  This story covers about fifty years, and King does a fabulous job of creating a sense of time and place for his readers.

In Revival, King has combined the sepia-toned nostalgia of works such as The Body and 11/22/63 with a sense of foreboding and underlying evil present in It and The Stand.

Heather Holley-Hall is Alamance County Public Libraries’ Head of Branch Services. She may be reached at hhhall@alamancelibraries.org or 336-570-6730.