Book Review – 1922

A hard luck farmer and his wife cannot agree on selling some property to make ends meet. Wilfred wants to keep the farm land that’s been in his family for ages, while his mean wife Arlette wants to sell everything and move somewhere more forgiving and suburban. When it seems like his wife’s sale of her property is about to go through, Wilfred takes the situation in his own hands and does the only thing he can think of to put an end of it all. He enlists their son Henry to help and poor Wilfred learns that sometimes, things don’t always turn out how you planned.

This was a very short story, originally published as part of a greater anthology. It’s typical King with all the tragedy, broken dreams, struggles, crudeness, and uncomfortable descriptions of decay that he’s the best at. This story even has rats! 1922 was a rough time in middle-America and King captures the atmosphere well in this one. It felt bleak, dirty, and unforgiving. I kept wanting to brush the dust off of myself.

Wilfred is a sad human being but I doubt he deserves any kind of pity. He’s a miserable person who ruined lives in the pursuit of his own selfishness. He even destroyed his own child along the way. Even when he gets his comeuppance (bye bye hand!), it’s not enough karmic payback for his sins. His son Henry seemed doomed from the start, but it’s hard to say for sure since all we know about Arlette is told from Wilfred’s perspective (as the whole book is his “letter” about the happenings) where he suggests she’s even more miserable than he is. I mostly doubt this, except for Henry’s comments about his mother not being nice, which any kid with a strict mom might say. I don’t really think that Henry would have had a nice adulthood even if his mother had lived. Helping dispose of your mom does some stuff to a kid, but he went straight into this kind of Bonney & Clyde route pretty quick.

The rats were a nice metaphor for the guilt and shame eating away at Wilfred. They were creepy enough and unsettling enough to fit the vibe quite well. Wilfred seems haunted by his actions throughout the story (manifesting as being haunted) and I do wonder what happened to him at the end. Was it the rats? Was it the ghosts? Did he have a breakdown and end it himself, albeit in a violent way?

Great story! Not usually my kind of tale but this one was written very well for a King tale and didn’t have a lot of sidetracks or meandering thoughts that are normally present in his thicker novels. Highly recommend on audiobook, Craig Wasson was a great narrator and performed with excellent emotion throughout.

Overall, I give it a 4 out of 5.

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