Book Review: Stephen King’s ‘Elevation’ Rises to the Top


As an avid reader of America’s greatest storyteller, Stephen King, I’m used to heft. I’m used to 1,000-page novels or even lengthy collections of short stories which provide decent weight-lifting material for 30-rep sessions.

In short, I’m used to fat books from King. I’m certainly not used to books as light as Elevation, new Oct. 30 from Scribner (146 pages, $19.95).

That’s not to say it’s lightweight in substance or in nature, just in pages (and they’re small ones — but so blessedly easy to read). It is to say that this book, while billed as a novel, is really more of a novella or a protracted short story. But who cares about semantics? It’s still a warm, witty and wonderful read.

As such, it returns King to his Maine stomping grounds of Castle Rock, where a middle-aged and divorced computer whiz, Scott, finds that he’s losing weight on the scale, but not in appearance.

In fact, according to his scale he’s slowly but inexorably becoming the incredible shrinking man, fading away to oblivion. But in truth, he’s just as big as ever, as his clothes attest, and he feels fine — even energized, since muscles accustomed to a higher weight now have less to carry.

Accepting this as his fate and even welcoming it (a happy resignation King doesn’t quite substantiate — I’d be scared as hell), Scott secretly shares his fate with a retired doctor pal. No clinics, probes or tests for him. He’s lowering in weight on the down-low.

Meanwhile, Scott tries to befriend a neighboring and married lesbian couple who are new to town and whose fine restaurant is shunned by those with closed minds. Herein lies a message about America’s intolerance problem — which seem to be getting worse.

Everything comes to a head with an annual Turkey Trot race in which one of the women is hell-bent to win and Scott is an unlikely but resourceful rival.

This tale of acceptance and respect warring with prejudice and false assumptions underscores King’s innate embrace of the lasting values of a generous spirit and caring heart. Page count aside, is that a substantial enough read for you? It should be.

Yes, it’s a quick page-turner, but it’s also an engaging and warm one with strong characters and a welcome sense of time and place. As such — and as usual — we can forgive King for a preposterous supernatural or sci-fi premise around which all else feels as grounded, real and immediate as our own everyday lives.

I also love this book not just for its themes, characters and narrative, but for its poetry. That’s right — poetry in a prose sense, especially at the end.

So thanks, Stephen. You’ve done it again.

Usually you scare the metaphorical pants off me. But this time, I appreciate the lift.

— Bruce Westbrook





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