Stephen King’s Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary – Stephen King
Doubleday – 1983

I haven’t read any Stephen King novels for a few years. 2 weeks ago I picked up Pet Sematary. I had seen the old movie version years ago, but I was not prepared for this book at all.

A family with two small kids moves into a house beside a busy road. Behind their house is a magical graveyard that brings whatever’s buried there back to life. The resurrected are altered though, altered for the worst. Even if you haven’t already read the book or seen the movie, you’ll probably be able to figure out what’s going to happen here.

King has claimed that Pet Sematary is the only book of his that actually scared him, but scary isn’t really the word I’d use to describe this. This is morbid. It’s a book about how people deal with death, specifically the death of a child.

I’ve mentioned it a few times, but I really don’t like reading about kids getting hurt. It’s too close to home. My kids are the same ages as the kids in this book, and I seriously wonder if some masochistic part of my subconscious was waiting until now to tell me to read it. I definitely found this more horrifying now than I would have if I had read it 10 years ago. I don’t know if that made it more or less enjoyable.

The inevitability of the plot is what makes this book so suspenseful. By the time you’re a quarter way through the book, you know full well where you’re going be at 3 quarters. You have to sit down and watch these poor bastards slowly suffer and disintegrate. It’s actually quite sadistic.

Pet Sematary is an effective novel, but I didn’t enjoy it as much I’ve enjoyed some of King’s other books. I’ll read another King novel next year.

2 thoughts on “Stephen King’s Pet Sematary

  1. The beginning of Part Two is what’s really stuck with me, even after all the re-readings. I think I understand people (like myself) who turn to gallows humor to deal with the worst episodes of their lives. It’s our brains trying to save us from the black hole of ourselves.

    “It’s probably wrong to believe there can be any limit to the horror which the human mind can experience. On the contrary, it seems that some exponential effect begins to obtain as deeper and deeper darkness falls—as little as one may like to admit it, human experience tends, in a good many ways, to support the idea that when the nightmare grows black enough, horror spawns horror, one coincidental evil begets other, often more deliberate evils, until finally blackness seems to cover everything. And the most terrifying question of all may be just how much horror the human mind can stand and still maintain a wakeful, staring, unrelenting sanity. That such events have their own Rube Goldberg absurdity goes almost without saying. At some point, it all starts to become rather funny. That may be the point at which sanity begins either to save itself or to buckle and break down; that point at which one’s sense of humor begins to reassert itself.”

    Similarly, I had a child the same age when I read Pet Sematary for the first time and couldn’t help making the same comparisons.

    You want another book that’ll stay with you if you have kids (especially a daughter?), try “And I Don’t Want to Live This Life” by Deborah Spungen. Nancy Spungen’s (of “Sid and Nancy” fame) mom’s story of watching her daughter spiral and spin out of her control. Maybe more effective since it is non-fiction. I read it when I was in my “Sex Pistols / Punk phase” and came away with a whole new respect for the part of the story I’d never heard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re totally right! I can’t believe I forgot the mention that bit. I saved the following note in my phone after reading that exact section:
      “Opening of sexond (sic) section of pet sematey (sic) is fucking brilliant”

      I will check out the other book if I get the chance! Thanks!


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