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April 21, 2021

Revival by Stephen King ~ a Review

by Alison DeLuca

During my usual hunt for more books to read, I stumbled on this novel by Stephen King. Yes, it's relatively unknown. No, it's not one of King's best.

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Cover of Revival by Stephen King showing the title and a bolt of lightning
But it held my attention from the first page, which King's stories usually do. 

In Revival, the concept of spiritual healing takes center stage. As a boy, the main character, Jamie Morton, meets his town's young minister, Charlie Jacobs. Revival is the story of Jamie's musical career, his fall from grace through an addiction to opioids, and his recovery at the hands of Charlie.

King breathes life into Jamie and Charlie, creating two vivid characters who capture the reader's interest right away. Jamie is a kid when he meets Charlie, a man with a beautiful wife and cute baby. Jamie and his friends crush on Mrs. Jacobs, but Charlie is the one who captures Jamie's interest. 

Charlie is fascinated by electricity. He teaches Sunday school with a series of experiments and builds a tiny figure of Jesus that walks on water. He also heals Jamie's brother with an electrical device, the minister's own invention.

This childhood interlude explodes with a gruesome accident that leaves Charlie Jacobs a widower. 

Jamie grows older, becomes a guitar player, and eventually encounters heroin. After getting kicked out of his band for sleeping through a concert, he runs into Charlie again... and Charlie's invention, the electrical device that healed Jamie's brother.

Can it heal Jamie's addiction? The answer seems to be yes - but at what cost? And what will it cost the others healed at Charlie Jacobs Revival Tent meetings?

I enjoyed Revival for several reasons. One is obvious: King creates amazing characters. They aren't stereotypes. Charlie is sympathetic, not a cardboard hellfire minister. Yes, he loses his way, but so does Jamie. 

The book is told in the first person through Jamie's POV. He is painfully truthful about his addiction. He describes the ugliest parts of shooting up in clear, spare prose. 

Jamie is not a stereotypical failed rocker that I've grown tired of in movies and other books. He's definitely more Larry Underwood than Rex Manning.

The plot develops at a nice pace, not too quickly, and with some asides into the music recording business. As the former girlfriend of a guy who did sound for a living, I enjoyed that evocative trip into days of carrying mic-stands and wincing at the screech of audio feedback. 

My favorite part of the book, however, was King's sympathy for his subjects. He seems to refuse to 'teach a lesson' or say that revivals are bad news. Religious fervor is handled with delicacy, not something that King is usually known for but he employs beautifully in Revival

If you want a King story that doesn't throw too much gore at the readers, I recommend Revival. It's well-written, interesting from the start, and a fascinating story.

Buy Revival at Amazon

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.

Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey. You can find her at 

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