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Literature: 11/22/63
11/22/63 is a Historical Fiction novel written by Stephen King.

Jake Epping, a divorced high school teacher, discovers from his dying friend a time portal to a date in 1958 at the back of his friend's diner. His friend proposes that he go back in time to stop John F. Kennedy's assassination. There, Jake lives a different life and falls in love all while preparing for the eventual date that will change history.

A movie version of the book is, of course, in the works.

This story provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: When Jake tries to change the past, every single car he touches turns into this.
  • Anachronism Stew: One of Jake's friends tells him to stop wasting his time and bet the Bears to win the NFC in 1963. The Bears did win the title that year, but it was still the NFL. The league didn't merge for years afterwards.
  • And I Must Scream: The Guardians. They are not only confined to an extremely small area (in this case over a broken sewer pipe), but the Time Travelers' effects drive them all insane.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Jake Epping is Jimla.
  • Arc Words:
    • JIMLA!
    • Life turns on a dime.
    • The past harmonizes.
    • The past is obdurate.
  • The Alcoholic: The mysterious Yellow-Card Man pre-suicide, as well as Jake's ex-wife.
  • Bad Future / Crapsack World: The result of Kennedy being saved.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Subverted. Sadie is disfigured and given a Glasgow Grin on one side of her face by her crazy ex-husband. She gets better by the end of the book but still retains a scar.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jake finds out that not only did stopping the Kennedy assassination make a world far worse, it will eventually destroy the fabric of time. Jake is able to undo this easily, but sadly he can't ever meet Sadie again. Thankfully, she turns out to still be alive in modern days, albeit wounded by her crazy ex.
  • Butterfly of Doom: The "butterfly effect" is explicitly mentioned (multiple times) in the novel. Ray Bradbury 's A Sound of Thunder is named. It's impossible to make a completely positive change to the past. Positive changes will be accompanied by some negative effect—and a large enough change can unravel the very fabric of the universe.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Jake notes humorously that the broken sewer pipe never gets fixed in any of the alternate realities.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Zig-Zagged on the FBI. After saving Kennedy, the FBI agent in charge is content to help Jake disappear and gives him a large amount of money to do so. However, in the Crapsack Future, it is revealed that Hoover actually ordered the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • During his stay in Derry, Jake runs into Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh, two of the "Losers Club" from It. A certain clown is referenced as well.
    • The number 19 crops in a few places. An example would be Jake's safe deposit box number being 775. This may make this book fit in with The Dark Tower series. June 19,1999, the day King was hit by a car and nearly killed, is mentioned as the day nuclear war broke out.
    • One of the cars seen in the Bad Future is a Takura Spirit, also from The Dark Tower series.
    • A red Plymouth Fury keeps turning up as well, particularly as it's driven by Sadie's psychotic ex.
    • Jake fears killing Frank Dunning could result in his imprisonment in Shawshank State Prison.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Lampshaded. Situations keep repeating for Jake as the past "harmonizes."
  • Cool Car: The portal happens to dump travelers out near a dealership with a killer Ford Sunliner for sale.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mimi Corcoran.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In the Bad Future, Kennedy runs the Vietnam War the same way Bush ran the second Iraq war, with even worse results.
  • Domestic Abuser: Oswald is one. Frank Dunning is worse.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: When Jake tries to change the past, ever more significant calamities befall him. When he gets close to making a big change, the universe stops dicking around and tries to kill him repeatedly.
  • The Fifties: Technically straddles the 50's and 60's, but Central Texas isn't exactly known for being on the forefront of social trends.
  • For the Evulz: George de Mohrenschildt basically confesses that he baited Lee Harvey Oswald into shooting at Edwin Walker for fun.
  • Grandfather Paradox: Hand Waved. When Jake asks about it, Al just asks what kind of sicko would even want to try? As Jake goes on, it becomes evident that if possible, it would at the least be very, very difficult.
  • Gray's Sports Almanac: Al's notes. Some of which are actual sports scores for betting purposes.
  • Historical-Domain Character: A chunk of the book is Epping keeping a close eye on Lee Harvey Oswald and monitoring his life and relationships with friends and family.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Extends it to every major event in history. It turns out that changing such events can and often will lead to a slow-but-certain Time Crash, other nasty side effects notwithstanding. Jake finds this out the hard way.
  • Idiot Ball: Two major ones, relating to the fact that every trip through the time portal is a Reset Button.
    • Al wants to prevent the Kennedy assassination, but he only feels 95% sure that Lee Harvey Oswald is the real killer and acted alone, so he (and later, Jake) spends five years in the past attempting to make sure. Why not just track down and kill Oswald right away, head back through the portal, and spend five minutes on the Internet checking to see if Kennedy was still killed? You can always just hit the Reset Button and try again if you got it wrong.
    • By the time Al gets back from his mission to save Kennedy, it has become clear that the timeline resists change, that the resistance is proportional to the magnitude of the change, and that it will resist a large change like preventing the Kennedy assassination with near-irresistible lethal force. Being too ill to complete the mission himself, he passes it on to Jake... who proceeds to go on a potential suicide mission without informing anyone else of he's up to. Okay, granted, he wants to keep the time portal a secret, but surely he could have found ONE trustworthy person to sit outside the portal with instructions that if Jake is not back in two minutes (meaning he has died in the past), to find ANOTHER trustworthy person to wait while the first attempts to complete the mission that both Al and Jake have failed.
  • It's for a Book: Jake's original cover story as to why he was traveling to Dallas. Eventually, he actually started writing a book.
  • John F. Kennedy: Saving him from death is the main plot point.
  • Just in Time: Jake stops Oswald in the very last minute.
  • The Mafia: Jake wins a few longshot bets from them to fund his time in the past. It burns him when he doesn't account for their interstate connections.
  • Mommy Issues: Oswald has these.
  • Mundane Utility: Al Templeton initially uses the time portal to get meat at a cheap price in 1958 to make a profit in the present.
  • My Beloved Smother: Oswald's mother, Marguerite.
  • Mystery Meat: Subverted. It's assumed by everyone that the reason why Al Templeton's meat is so cheap is because he's using roadkill. In reality it's because he's getting it from 1958.
  • No Communities Were Harmed:
    • Like in It, Derry is meant as a stand-in for Bangor, Maine.
    • King never states outright exactly where Jodie, TX (or Denholm County, in which it is located) is meant to be but it is close enough to Dallas/Fort Worth, where Jake moves to in order to spy on Oswald.
  • Oh Crap: When Jake hears cheerleaders chanting "Jim-La!".
  • One Steve Limit: Averted all over the place. The pseudonym the protagonist uses in the past is George, and he has dealings with George de Mohrenschildt and observes another George interacting with Marina and Lee Oswald. His girlfriend, Sadie Doris Dunhill, has a very similar name to a woman in Derry with the surname of Dunning, who Jake comes back in time to save. Of course, the past harmonizes.
  • Phony Degree: Jake has a genuine degree ... from 2011, and knows better than to produce it to get a job in the late 1950s/early 1960s. So he gets a second degree from a diploma mill.
  • Politically Correct History: Averted. While traveling through the Jim Crow-era South, Jake notices that the "Colored" toilets at a gas station are a stump over a stream surrounded by poison ivy. He mentions that he thinks about it every time he starts to romanticize the past.
  • Portal to the Past: At the back of a diner. Turns out that's where the owner is getting an amazing deal on meat.
  • Reset Button: Anyone who travels through the portal overwrites the actions of the previous person. Zack Lang, a.k.a. the Green Card Man, hints that there may be a lot more work involved offstage.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: When in Derry, Jake makes use of a .38 revolver. He becomes fond of it and purchases a second one when he moves to Dallas.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Affects anyone in immediate proximity to the portal. Although having to reconcile multiple alternate realities can be bad for your mental health.
  • Russian Girl Suffers Most: Lee's Russian wife Marina certainly has it worst.
  • Series Continuity Error: while in Derry in 1958, Jake is told the body of Patrick Hockstetter, one of the victims of Pennywise, has recently been found in The Barrens. However, in "IT" Patrick was dragged into the tunnels underneath Derry by Pennywise and remained there undiscovered for decades. The Losers encounter his (skeletal) remains down in the tunnels in both 1958 and again in 1985. Likewise, by this time Henry Bowers should have been apprehended by the Derry Police, and under intense pressure from both police questioning and severe psychological strain from what transpired in the sewers, falsely confessed to the murders and sent off to Juniper Hill. The townspeople of Derry don't seem to be aware of this, however, even suspecting that the killer may still be out there, or even unsure that the murders have stopped for good.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: That's the plan at least.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Jake rescues President Kennedy in the last moment, but Sadie is killed. When he returns to the present, he finds out that this only made things a lot worse, and changing history always does. So, he goes back in time once more, which resets the whole thing.
    • Jake's attempts to save the Dunnings become this. The first time he does it, one of the Dunning children still ends up dead, and in that timeline, Harry died in Vietnam. In the spectacularly Bad Future created by saving Kennedy, Harry is still alive, but still paralyzed, this time in the Vietnam War.
  • Shout-Out: The male protagonist of a Time Travel story falls in love with a girl whose (married) name is "Clayton". Said Time Traveller also funds their stay by gambling on longshot sports upsets with future information. Does this remind you of anything?
  • Shown Their Work: King did extensive research on what life in the 1950s was like and even interviewed historians about what life may have been like had Kennedy not been shot.
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: Al Templeton used the portal to get meat from the same day in 1958 and make a profit selling it for cheap in the present. As a result, everyone assumes that he's using roadkill in his burgers.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Jake and Sadie.
  • Time Police: There are "guardians" of respective time portals. Drastic changes to the past make them, along with the time-space continuum itself worse for the wear.
  • Time Travel: The MacGuffin behind a diner allows a modern person to go back and forth in time.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: How time travel works can be rather... confusing at times.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Jake feels this hanging over him all during the time he spends in Derry. On the other hand, Jodie, TX may be the first small town to ever appear in a Stephen King novel which isn't an example of this.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: In addition to stopping Kennedy's assassination, a large chunk of the novel is spent on Jake's life and various relationships while living in the '50s.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Poundcake".
  • Who Shot JFK?: One of the reasons why Jake just doesn't kill Lee Harvey Oswald right off the bat is because of the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy's assassination and the possibility that another person may have been involved. In the end, it's just Oswald working alone. In the afterword, King notes that after reading all he could on the subject, this is the situation he considers by far the most likely.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: No matter how long one spends in the past, returning through the portal dumps you two minutes after you left.

Inheritance TrilogyWorld Fantasy AwardA Dance with Dragons
    Works By Stephen KingBag of Bones
    Alternate History Literature1632
    Literature of the 2010sPeter Clines Fourteen
A Boot Stomping A Human Face ForeverScience Fiction Literature2001: A Space Odyssey

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