Book Review: Misery

MISERY | Stephen King
01.05.2016 (first published 1987) | Scribner
Rating: 4/5 stars


Paul Sheldon is a bestselling writer known for his Misery series, which focuses on a woman named Misery and her many adventures. Annie Wilkes is Paul’s number one fan, but she’s also much more. Paul has just been in a terrible car crash near Annie’s home. She was the first person to find Paul, but instead of taking him to the local hospital, she is bringing back her days as a nurse and taking care of Paul in her home. It seems like a plausible plan given that a massive snowstorm was headed to town the day of the accident, but things quickly become clear that Annie has no intentions of taking Paul to receive care anywhere else.

I thought you were good, but you are not good. You are just a lying old dirty birdie.

Paul has become Annie’s prisoner in her isolated home. Her good fortune in finding Paul has sparked an idea. You see, Paul recently killed off Misery in his books, and Annie isn’t too happy about it. She has ordered Paul to write her a new book and bring Misery back to life. Each time Paul does something Annie doesn’t like, be it in the new book or in real life, she finds a new and horrible way to punish Paul. Annie’s moods change with the wind and Paul has to be on his toes in order to avoid bodily harm. Will Paul ever escape Annie’s grip?

MISERY is a compulsive, intense, and downright gory journey into Annie Wilkes kidnaping of Paul Sheldon. Annie is a character who fits the mold of a psychopath and serial killer. The situation with Paul is not entirely new to Annie. While she’s never kept someone captive before, Annie has certainly inflicted pain and ultimately taken the lives of many others. Annie is more than a rapid fan. One of my biggest issues with this book is that there isn’t more backstory on Annie. I loved what King described about her, but I wanted a bit more context on what drove her to become the person she turned out to be. Paul Sheldon is an equally complex character who at first comes off as a bit one-dimensional. Paul is a writer who hates his most popular works and wants to branch out, but in his captive state he must dive back into the life of the characters he that has come to loathe. Ultimately Annie’s torture is not just physical for Paul, but also hold a mental aspect beyond what the physical pain has brought him, as he forces himself to create a new Misery book for Annie.

He had discovered that there was not just one God but many, and some were more than cruel — they were insane, and that changed all. Cruelty, after all, was understandable. With insanity, however, there was no arguing.

This book also contains an element of a book within a book, as King also includes snippets of the new Misery novel that Paul is writing. At first I enjoyed my look into this book, but the later sections didn’t add anything to the novel for me. I don’t think it’s a series I would read in real life, so perhaps that’s why I ended up drawing away from enjoying those blurbs. The initial dive into the book, however, I thought was brilliant because it gave me a chance to see what Annie was so obsessed with. At the end of the day, despite the minor flaws, MISERY has been a wild ride of reading! I would never want to meet Annie Wilkes in a dark alley or have her find me after a car crash. There are so many memorable scenes from this book, which will stick with me for a long time. I’m looking at you axe scene! I’ll also never get phrases like “dirty birdie” or “cockadoodie” out of my head!

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