The Shining, Stephen King’s third book, is also one of his best. The plot centers around Jack Torrance and his family. Jack is an alcoholic mentally troubled father and after being fired from his teaching job he takes a job as a winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. During the long, cold, desolate winter the only people in the hotel will be Jack, his wife Wendy and their son Danny. Danny is a “special” child who is blessed or cursed with “the shining.” With “the shining” Danny can see spirits as well as past, present and future events through his invisible friend Tony. On the surface this book deals with telepathy, alcoholism and child-parent relationships. Beneath the surface we have a haunted hotel which desperately wants the spirit of Danny and his psychic abilities. The Outlook is a living entity which lives off the spirits of people who have died there (most of them murdered). It decides it wants Danny’s shining and goes about trying to possess Danny. When that doesn’t work, it starts on the much weaker Jack. Jack starts drinking even though there is no alcohol in the hotel. We know this because Wendy smells it on his breath. Danny starts seeing people who have obviously been dead for a very, very long time. As Jack spirals quickly into madness we see him becoming one with the hotel and he begins threatening Wendy and Danny. The tension factor ramps up as Jack’s threats become more violent, there is a paralyzing blizzard and the feelings of loneliness and panic assail Wendy. The book becomes a struggle between Jack/Overlook and Wendy for Danny’s life. Part of my fascination with this book was never knowing what the reader was going to find around a corner, through a doorway or (heaven help us) when the elevator doors open. If Danny sees something, will his parents also be able to see it? Why and how is there alcohol on Jack’s breath? Who is Tony the invisible friend? This books rates very high on my scare meter (second only to Salem’s Lot). King is the only writer who has been able to consistently scare me with his earlier works. For excellent “don’t turn out the lights” and “don’t read it alone” type fiction, it is impossible to top King’s early works. I can sum this book up with one word “Redrum”.
Oak Park Library is currently closed and will re-open on Monday, Dec. 18 at 9 a.m.