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Literature / Lisey’s Story

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Lisey’s Story is a 2006 novel written by Stephen King.

After twenty-five years of marriage, Lisey’s writer husband Scott Landon dies of a mystery disease. Scott used to go to a place called “Boo’ya Moon”, a place that both terrified and healed him. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to visit, to uncover her husband’s past and face her own demons.

The novel was partially inspired by King’s own brush with mortality after being hit by a car in 1999 and what his wife’s life may have been like had he died. Also inspired by an obsessed fan breaking into the King home while Tabitha King was alone.

Because the novel was so intensely personal, King resisted any attempts to adapt the book into a movie. He eventually relented and sold the rights to Apple TV+, which adapted the novel into an eight-episode mini-series starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen in 2021. King himself wrote every episode.

This novel contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Scott's father abuses both Scott and his brother.
  • And I Must Scream: Those who get eaten by the Long Boy don't die. Instead, they are eternally digested while conscious.
  • Axe-Crazy: Scott's father becomes this after going mad with 'Bad-Gunky'.
    • Both Scott's attempted assassin, Cole, and Lisey's stalker, Dooley, also count.
  • Best Years of Your Life: One of Lisey's sisters comments to Lisey that they want to get together like "the good old days"; Lisey has flashbacks to her sisters treating her like crap.
  • Child Prodigy: Both Scott and his brother Paul were this. When they were just 3 and 6 year old respectively, Scott could already read, and both boys were able to created and solve treasure hunts involving riddles and cryptic clues called Bools.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Happens to Lisey at the hands of John Dooley. To Lisey's breast, specifically. With a can-opener.
  • Continuity Nod: A character listens to a Mike Noonan novel on tape.
    • Time is referred to as a great tower at one point, with the past still happening on some other level.
    • And of course it all takes place in Castle County . . .
  • Deuteragonist: Per the title, this is Lisey's story first and foremost, but her deceased husband Scott is just as important to the narrative and is the main focus of the various flashbacks.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: In-Universe example; as the widow of a famed novelist, Lisey is quite familiar with these kind of people, whom she refers to as “Deep Space Cowboys”, and describes them as:
    Deep Space Cowboys have a lot to say. They want to grab Scott by the arm and tell him they understand the secret messages in his books; they understand that the books are really guides to God, Satan or possibly the Gnostic Gospels.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Seeing the Long Boy.
  • Improvised Weapon: Lisey uses Scott's shovel.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to King's usual fare. It still gets pretty dark.
  • Loony Fan: Two of them. Lisey has a run-in with John Dooley, an insane fan of her dead husband. Before his death, Scott was almost assassinated by a separate insane fan at a dedication ceremony.
  • The Lost Lenore: A male example with Lisey's husband.
  • Mercy Kill: We are told early on that Scott's father killed his brother and that Scott later killed him. In both cases, we later find out that they had been driven irrevocably insane by the 'Bad-Gunky' and their deaths were mercy kills.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Subverted somewhat from King's usual repertoire as the protagonist is the writer's wife.
  • My God, You Are Serious!: Joseph Woodbury agreed to Dooley's plan to "convince" Lisey to hand over her late husband's unpublished manuscripts since he thought Dooley was just a drunk braggart. Naturally, he is quite shocked to hear from Lisey that Dooley followed up on his promise and is now stalking her.
  • Patricide: Scott's final story discusses his doing this at age ten.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Lisey and Scott both use made-up or inverted words between them such as 'bool', 'Bad-Gunky' or replacing words like 'afghan' with 'african'.
  • Posthumous Character: Scott.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In-Universe example. Lisey recalls how Scott once read a newspaper article about a dog named Ralph, who got lost and found his way home over the course of three years and countless miles, and complained that if he were to use such a plot for one of his stories, his editors would never accept it since it would be unbelievable. Based on this incident, Scott himself refers to the trope as "Reality is Ralph!".
  • Shovel Strike: Lisey uses a commemorative shovel of her late husband's as a weapon.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Large chunks of the story are flashbacks to Scott's childhood and relationship with his father and brother.