Carrying on with my weekly (unless you count last week … I was busy so kinda of just pretended last week wasn’t a week as far as my blogging calendar goes) meme Short Read Sunday, in which I read and review a short story/novella every Sunday, I bring to you ‘The Reach’ by Stephen King.
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 22/03/10
Pages: Unknown. Part of a larger collection
My Chosen Format: Kindle
My Rating of ‘The Reach’: 4 out of 5
Over the course of the year I fully intend to complete all of the books in Skeleton Crew and ‘The Reach’ is my second offering. The basic plot of ‘The Reach’ (based on a true event which King eludes to in his ‘Notes’ section at the back of the book) is of the oldest resident of Goat Island, ninety-five year old Stella Flanders, coming to the terms with the fact that she is in the late stages of cancer. Having never crossed the Reach (the body of water that separates Goat Island from the Mainland) in her near century-long life, Stella decides that, with death’s shadow looming ever closer, it’s time to do just that.
In ‘The Reach’ Stephen King does so well in constructing a small, close-knit community that, after the short span of this short story, you feel that the characters are real people you have known for a long period of time. I genuinely found myself feeling sorry for certain characters and wondering just how the lives of certain others went in the coming years. This is something I am not used to feeling when it comes to short stories as I rarely expect, or actually end up, feeling attached to them. So bravo, Mr King.
The overlying theme of this story is ‘what happens to us after we die?’ Do we continue on in spirit form? Do we just cease to exist? When Stella begins to see the long-dead residents of Goat Island, she knows all too well that the cancer she has been keeping hidden is on the verge of claiming her. Not wanting to have gone her whole life without seeing the other side of the reach, she dresses as warmly as she can and leaves her home, and her simple son Alden, behind (he’s an adult and capable of looking after himself, so it isn’t totally as cruel as I make it sound). Along with her own warm clothes she takes a pair of her son’s long-johns and his hat.
The end of the story leaves the reader wondering ‘what happens next’ as far as life and death are concerned. For me, I was wondering if the ‘spirits’ she was seeing was simply her cancer-riddled mind trying to make the last few days of her life bearable and joyful. The appearance of a certain hat threw a spanner in the works as far as my thinking goes!
Stephen King ends the story in a simple way that has the reader feeling all warm and fuzzy inside despite the cancer and death laced throughout the story. I had a smile on my face when finishing, at least. I wouldn’t class it as a spooky story, just a very well-written short story that both Stephen king fans and non-fans could enjoy equally. When I stop to think about every little detail he mentioned throughout, I can’t help but be amazed how much detail he put into so short a piece. Shows true care for a story on behalf of an author. It’s why he’s one of the greats.