Book Review: Needful Things

05.12.2011 (First published October 1991) | Hodder & Stoughton
Rating: 5/5 stars


The town of Castle Rock has a new store opening up. Needful Things is the name of the town’s newest establishment. What exactly does a store with such a strange name sell? The proprietor, Leland Gaunt, would tell you that Needful Things is a store that sells exactly what it’s customers desire. Looking for a rare baseball card? Needful Things has just the one your collection is missing! Looking for a piece of carnival glass? Needful Things has the most unique piece you’ve ever seen! Always wanted a picture of The King to stare lovingly at? Needful Things has the best one ever taken!

Everyone loves something for nothing…even if it costs everything.

Surely with so many special items in stock the merchandise on the shelves of Needful Things must cost a small fortune. Wrong. Each item is priced at exactly the amount the customer can afford with one tiny caveat, you must also be willing to play a prank on someone whenever Gaunt decides. Surely a harmless prank is a small price to pay for something you so desire. What are you willing to pay to have the item of your dreams?

Because in America, you could have anything you wanted, just as long as you could pay for it. If you couldn’t pay, or refused to pay, you would remain needful for ever.

Stephen King has once again convinced me that reading 900+ page books is normal, as he delivers masterful sentence after masterful sentence to keep me spellbound and in the grasp of Leland Gaunt. What a shopkeeper! Is there anything not to love about a man who has the item you’ve always wanted, but never knew you could afford? Oh, you mean that horrible, disturbing feeling you have running through your body when he touches your skin, doesn’t bother you? And let’s not forget the way his eyes change and his ability to speak straight in to your subconscious. He’s a great guy! Okay, so maybe he’s not such a great guy, but is one heck of a villain! I loved the many facets of Gaunt’s abilities and just how easily he could have residents of Castle Rock eating out of his hands.

Love, the simplest, strongest, and most unforgiving of all emotions.

King unfolded Gaunt’s master plan through the use of not only Gaunt’s actions, but the effects and repercussions that these actions had. Every prank that he convinced a customer to make spiraled in to the lives of those around them and before you could blink there were wars brewing between residents. People straight up lost their minds in the most epic ways possible! King didn’t just pull me in with the interactions of the characters, but also with the depth of these characters. Just like in other books I’ve read by King, he effortlessly drew me in to the lives and back stories of multiple people living in Castle Rock. In typical King style, he also shattered my heart when he took the lives of several of my favorites!

That was what I wanted, but I don’t need it to be gone. I can love you and I can love life and bear the pain all at the same time. I think the pain might even make the rest better, the way a good setting can make a diamond look better.

In the end Needful Things was about so much more than just a store that sells items with a catch. It was more than what the pranks caused residents to do. It was about how material possessions can overtake our lives and our abilities to judge what we really need to get by. It was about choosing to live not for the items one can have, but the relationships one can have instead. I think Needful Things will go down as one of my all time favorites!

Why is it that so many people think all the answers are in their wallet?

A special thank you to my dear friend Janel for choosing another fantastic selection for our King journey! I cannot wait to do it all over again with 11.22.63 next month!

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Needful Things

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