Book 35: A book your mom loves, Thinner by Stephen King
I am going to start this review with an anecdote. When I was a toddler, my parents were desperately trying to wean me off of my baby bottle and get me to use sippy cups. I flat out refused to comply, so my sister came up with the idea to take all of my bottles away, hide them, and tell me the following story. She said the Gypsies came in the night and took away all my bottles. I had to drink from a “big girl cup” and if I refused, or complained, they would come back another night and take me, too. It certainly worked–some indescribable terror around the lore of the Gypsy scared me, even at that young age. I respected it enough to give up the struggle, though I did walk around the house complaining about how those “damn Gypsies stole my baba” for quite some time afterward. Even so, I grew up with a fascination, respect, and fear of Gypsies as a result of this encounter. I mention this story because the mysticism and respect (albeit, out of fear) surrounding Gypsy culture is a huge factor in this novel. Gypsy culture itself is practically its own character. King draws on this mysticism to create this hovering fear of the “unknown” power of the Gypsy to propel the storyline forward. However, he also utilizes an emotion known to each of us–the power of the “what if” and the dangerous spiral it can lead us into.
Have you ever had a moment where your life could have taken a horrific turn, but it didn’t? Like maybe you were a second away from making an irreversible mistake, but by some stroke of fate, you corrected your course at the last second, and everyone walked away unharmed? These close-calls and near misses in life motivate us to be better, to make wiser choices. But late at night do you ever ponder the “what if?” Where your gut drops out as you consider how your life can change for the worse in just a split second? This is what Stephen King excels at–that gut-dropping moment of horror before your rational mind kicks in and tells you to shut up. Thinner encapsulates that feeling and grows it into something unfathomably terrible.
Billy Halleck is an upper-middle class white guy living in New England. He is a successful lawyer, and he has grown literally fat and content with middle age. Life has given him only the best–a loving wife, beautiful daughter, successful career, nice home, and every creature comfort a human being could crave. One day, seemingly just like any other in his idyllic life, Billy’s world gets turned upside down. There’s an accident involving an old Gypsy woman from the travelling band of Gypsies passing through town. After the chaos of the accident subsides. the ancient Gypsy leader utters one word through his leery, rotten grin: “Thinner.” With that, Billy’s life is never the same. You as the reader follow him on his horrifying journey of punishment and possible redemption for the sins he has committed.
Although terrifying in its own rite, this is more than just a horror story. The surface deals with the usual horror one would expect from Stephen King, but below the surface we delve into a deeper, truer horror: the horror of consequences for the terrible mistakes we make, and the burden of living with ourselves and the horrible things we have done unto others.