Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
Pet Sematary by Stephen King – Book Details
TITLE – Pet Sematary
AUTHOR – Stephen King
YEAR PUBLISHED – 1983
PAGE COUNT – 395
MY RATING – 5 of 5
RATED ON GOODREADS – 4.05 of 5
About to read Pet Sematary by Stephen King
At some point he slept without even being aware that he had gone over the edge; […] it seemed to him that he heard bare feet slowly climbing the stairs and that he thought, let me alone, Pascow, let me alone, what’s done is done and what’s dead is dead – and the steps faded away.
I’ve been dying to read this book for the past couple of years. I finally have it in my hands. Can’t wait to start it. But the whole day I’ve been making excuses and finding small chores that are delaying my reading.
Why am I this nervous? 😅
Most horrors don’t even scare me. But then, King himself said Pet Sematary is the most frightening book he’s ever written. Apparently, it’s the only book that made him think he finally went too far.
So there’s that.
I think his personal experience that has been woven into this book is what makes it so disturbing for him. I don’t think it’s that scary in the classical horror sense.
But I’m still not picking it up 😳😅.
My Thoughts As I’m Reading Pet Sematary by Stephen King
20% into the book:
He thought again that it was an odd thing for children to have kept up for so long. His own memory of childhood enthusiasms – reinforced by his dealings with Ellie – was that they tended to burn like newsprint, fast … hot … and quick to die.
Something about this book just grabbed me from the start, I can barely put it down. Super short chapters and simple, approachable writing certainly have a lot to do with it. So far, despite parts that are clearly setting up everything for whatever horror is about to happen, everything seems so normal. Quiet and peaceful.
We are getting to know this family that is average in many ways. Flawed but they’re trying. Good and bad days. They have two kids and a cat. They just moved to Ludlow, a small town in Main so the guy (Louis Creed) can start a new job as a physician at the university.
You know, just normal people. But you can tell the whole time their lives are about to change. More than just lives, it seems. Like all their fears and traumas are about to be brought to the surface, and they don’t even know yet just how scared they really are deep down.
It is clear from the start death is going to be the central point of this story. Not as a jump-scare-style, gruesome, blood and limbs everywhere, typical horror death. But death as a mystery. As the unknown. Death the way a person perceives it when for the first time they realize they are going to die someday. And what it really means.
But something did just happen literally on the last couple of pages I read. And I guess it slowly starts…
40% into the book:
Jud smiled – or at least, his lips slanted. ‘I think it’s a dangerous place,’ he said softly, ‘but not for cats or dogs or pet hamsters. Go on and bury your animal, Louis.’
I am so mad right now! Because the description of Pet Sematary I read before reading the book – I didn’t think it contained spoilers, but apparently it does!
The things that it mentioned – I thought it all happens in the first couple of chapters and then we continue on from there. Nope! Some of those things are only starting to happen now, and I’m just so 😡😤. Why?
It would have been so cool if I’d discovered it all as I was reading the book.
It’s still a great book, but I think I would enjoy it even more if I didn’t already know what’s coming.
I’d also skip Stephen King’s introduction at the beginning of the book until I finished the read because a lot is said there as well. It’s a good intro, I’d just read it once I finished Pet Sematary.
But now I really really wanna talk about what just happened! But I also don’t want to ruin it for you!
It’s just – I don’t even know why I’m finding this part so satisfying. It’s creepy in a way that feels so good, almost comforting.
From the beginning of this book, it was really the juxtaposition between cozy family everyday moments and the impending horror behind their home that makes this book unnerving. The fact that it’s a beloved pet that brings terror – so good!
There’s also something about the fact you can’t quite tell whether Louis kind of knew what he was doing when he followed Jud that night. He didn’t really, but on some level he could feel something was off about that graveyard. But he went anyway.
Almost at the halfway point, so far the story was really mostly about when things bigger than you start going on around you. There’s nothing you can do. Can’t change a thing. The control you thought you had is gone. For the first time, you start to realize how unreliable you are. You could go crazy at any moment. What you want doesn’t matter. What you think is right doesn’t matter. You can scream it’s impossible all you want.
And it’s not even about going crazy. It’s more about that moment when everything still might go back to the way it used to be. You still might be normal. It’s not too late. Everything still could end up being fine.
But with what he did – he kind of knew what he was doing. He did it anyway. And while he didn’t actually make the decision, the whole thing made me wonder at what point you can consider yourself accountable for something.
And now the consequences are here.
60% into the book:
‘That place … all at once it gets hold of you … and you make up the sweetest-smelling reasons in the world … but I could have been wrong, Louis. That’s all I’m saying.
Well, there’s your horror, right there. The worst things that can happen to someone are not ghosts and monsters, are they?
Since my last update, the book started to remind me of Frankenstein. The doctor genius in Frankenstein created something that seemed like a glorious idea at the moment. Later, he couldn’t even look at his grotesque creation.
In both cases, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor thing.
But now I’m at the point in Pet Sematary where what happened wiped everything that happened before out of my head. There were books that made me cry before, but Pet Sematary is the only book that made me so uncomfortable, I had the urge to let out one of those nervous giggles in the most inappropriate moments.
Only now did I start to realize how perfect the setup for this plot point was. So many clues, both subtle and quite obvious, that I completely missed.
80% into the book:
Is the line so thin, then? he wondered, and that thought also had a ring of familiarity. […] That simple? Is it lunacy? I spent eight years becoming a doctor, but I’ve become […] what I suppose people would call a ghoul.
This last portion I read was more about grief than death itself. About different ways people deal with losing someone they loved. So many weird things that are actually a normal part of processing and accepting.
We also started to touch on what happens when you choose to deal with your loss in a way that is not exactly healthy. But this being a horror novel, there’s a lot of space for unhealthy ways to turn truly sick and twisted.
Things are coming together finally. We are getting consequences for earlier decisions. We are also getting some new decisions that are going to have even worse consequences.
But it’s different this time because he already saw what happened the last time. No space for I didn’t know.
And he regretted it so badly the first time. If he could have taken it back, he wouldn’t think twice about it, because it became so obvious what a terrible mistake the whole ordeal was.
But then the tragedy apparently pushed him even further beyond the border of sanity.
He would not think about it. There was no need to think about it. There was no need to—
Something was coming.
Well, wasn’t that a hell of an ending.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King – Final Thoughts and Conclusion
… somewhere deep inside, away from the action, he wondered if he had always been within touching distance of such mad irrationalities; if everyone was.
The scary part about Pet Sematary is that it doesn’t talk about becoming someone you never were. It’s about when your life takes a shattering turn, it brings your own extremes to the surface. We are not really aware of everything we carry deep down and this book portrays that masterfully.
Grief has a way of stripping down everything that’s even slightly less impactful than it, which in Louis’ case is pretty much everything. Every fear. Every rational thought. Any inner being’s attempt to bring some balance into the swirling pile of mess he has suddenly come down to.
And a man who fears nothing and has nothing left to lose is a dangerous thing. But of course, this being a horror novel, the supernatural elements take everything up to a whole other level.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King brilliantly compares breathtakingly tough natural to the wrongness of the unnatural. But it’s really the progression, the slow escalation of bad decisions that made this book so engaging for me.
By the end, you can’t justify poor judgment, but you can see how things got there. And finding yourself sort of understanding is the most unsettling place this book will take you.