I began reading Stephen King’s work in 6th grade after falling in love with the brilliant movie Stand by Me. Finally, I thought: a story reflected the realities of negotiating puberty, friend groups, and problematic family dynamics in a way that didn’t minimize the thoughts, actions, and desires of young people (1). King’s keen insight into human motivations, fears, and longings is what has reignited my interest in his work (after years of reading children’s books to my kids and academic texts for college), and this insight is what makes the novella “A Good Marriage” found in the compilation Full Dark, No Stars, so satisfying.
No vampires haunt this tale. No creepy ghost twins hang out in the hallway. Not a single clown beckons from a gutter. No, the scariest aspect of this story is that it reminds us that monsters are unfortunately and undeniably real, but they look like ordinary people. Sometimes, they are people lucky enough to be part of a good marriage.
When Darcy’s ordinary day takes the most dramatic of turns due to an accidental discovery, and her life turns completely upside down, King’s descriptions of the character’s thought process and emotions are so realistic that they are strangely relatable. Though I hope none of us find ourselves in Darcy’s position, most of us know that feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we receive devastating, life-changing news, learn of a deep deception, or both.
Even if a reader cannot relate to the shocking turn of events that Darcy faces, King’s writing evokes a strong sense of empathy for her plight while simultaneously prompting readers to explore the nature of justice. This work poses an interesting question: how well can we ever truly know what goes on in someone else’s mind?
This story was made into a film in 2014. You can read about the film here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2180994/ Note that IMDB only gave the film 2.5 stars. A link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP9-6F3HMfI shows some of the artistic liberties taken to expand the story from a novella to a full-length motion picture. I suspect that, as is often the case, the book is better than the movie. I recommend the story for anyone who is comfortable with feeling uncomfortable in the name of art, introspection, and a deeper understanding of human nature. I cannot recommend the film because I haven’t seen it and also because I seriously doubt that all Darcy’s inner dialogue and emotional turmoil has been captured on film, and that is, after all, what makes the story so mesmerizing.
(1) The novella “The Body” was originally published in Different Seasons (1982).