I Read My Second Stephen King Novel

Is there a statute of limitation on murder?  I guess I could look this up with a quick search on Google, but it’s easier just to ask you.  It’s also a rhetorical question, as I wanted to get your attention.  I ask because I just read a novel in which the protagonist gets away with murder.  Her name is Dolores Claiborne.  Yes, I gave Stephen King another chance, and boy did he deserve it.

I enjoyed every minute of Dolores Claiborne (1992).  It’s a fascinating tale of a woman accused of murdering her employer, an ailing, old, rich woman for whom Dolores is the housekeeper.  Vera Donovan, the old woman, falls down the stairs and consequently dies, and the prime suspect is Dolores.  The novel is the purported statement made by Dolores to the police.  It’s a neat way of presenting the information, as we hear Dolores’s voice and story from her perspective.  She proclaims her innocence, but then tells her long story to prove why.  In the process, she confesses to the murder of her husband thirty years earlier.  That’s why I ask about the statute of limitations.  What kind of trouble will Dolores face for finally telling the truth about her husband’s drunken “fall” down an old well?

Don’t read this part if you don’t want a spoiler (but the truth is, it’s an “old” book, so you’ve probably read it before now).  Apparently, Dolores doesn’t face any consequences.  The end of the book is newspaper clippings, recounting the results of an inquest into Vera’s death, and Dolores is cleared of any wrongdoing.  The newspapers also  reveal that a donation of thirty million dollars has been made to an orphanage.  The donor is anonymous, but we know that it’s Dolores, for she had inherited Vera’s massive fortune, but did not want it.

The motive for Dolores murdering her husband may have something to do with the fact that she never faces charges for his death.  He had been molesting their teenage daughter, and when Dolores finds out, she plots for a way to escape him and protect the children.  The plot eventually leads to murder, an idea that Vera plants in her head.

I am, however, impressed with Dolores’s reaction to her daughter’s story.  Dolores knows that something is wrong, and finally figures out what when she pursues her daughter and helps her to feel safe enough to share her story.  Dolores acts with such calm and kindness and really is a fantastic mother in her handling of the situation.

All too often, mothers do not protect their children.  We can turn on the news or the latest sensational talk show and find families torn apart by abuse and neglect.  We can see mothers who choose their “man” over their children.  This is wrong.  (Although it may have something to do with the fact that we only value women if they have a man to support them.  Take a closer look at the welfare system.)  As a student of mine recently told me in another context, that of pursuing educational opportunities, parents are advocates for their children.  Children are powerless and need their parents to protect and guide them.

I could get personal here.  I was never sexually abused, per say, but I did experience some uncomfortable situations with my step-father during my childhood.  My mother would either act hysterically but do nothing, or she’d just shrug her shoulders when I told her.  The most upsetting experience for me was when I found my step-father looking through a second-story window at me in the shower.  I was seventeen at the time.  He had climbed onto the roof.  I slammed the window shut, jumped out of the shower, got dressed faster than I ever had, and fled the house with my friends.  I told no one what had happened that night.  Later, I told my mother and her response was, “Maybe he thought it was me.”  Other disgusting things happened (that I do not feeling comfortable sharing) that disprove her theory, but I am still hurt by her mild reaction and her failure to “protect” me.  I know that I need to forgive, and there are many things to forgive in my childhood, but this is one of those things that I have a hard time letting go of.  Why didn’t she protect me?  Why didn’t she care?  That is more hurtful than my step-father’s actions.

I liked Dolores Claiborne.  It proves what people have been telling me about King for years.  He does have talent.  He is a magnificent storyteller.  I am glad that I gave him another chance.

31 thoughts on “I Read My Second Stephen King Novel

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  1. Oddly enough, when I was younger I didn’t care much for King’s works, but as I get older I have found myself enjoying them. I am almost through with his dark tower series and it is great.

  2. I have read many magazine articles by Stephen King.They were about movies and TV shows like Lost. He had very interesting views on other books. I really liked his fun nature and how inspired he was by everyday life. Now I’ll have to make time for one of his novels. Thanks ;D

  3. Great to hear. I have thought the same thing about King — pulp novelist with no real talent. I love the film of DC so will make sure to check out the book. Have you read The Shining? It has been recommended to me by many.

  4. All I have to say is WOOOOO HOOOOO!! =) I love SK and *almost* everything he’s ever written. Yes, he can be gory and incredibly strange, but he is an AWESOME storyteller. I’m willing to read a few duds to enjoy his overall talent. I’m so glad you enjoyed DC. I love the relationship between Dolores and her daughter. No matter how hard life got for them, in the end they were there for each other. Good for you for trying another of his books after hating the first! Then again…. that’s just the kind of awesome person you are!

  5. I’m impressed by how personal you got in this post. That doesn’t sound like it would be something that was easy to write, but gives you insite into that Mother Daughter relationship. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I’ve seen the Dolores Claiborne movie three times and I always love the part where she kills her husband . I feel like it is justice for all the bad things he did. I never read the book though, maybe someday. As for being sexually abused, it is a double edged sword: betrayal from your step-father and denial from your Mom. Both sides hurt terribly and it’s hard to forgive. I’m writing about my own abuse in my book, Multiple, which is almost done!

  7. when i lived where books could be easily bought or checked out at the local library, i read most of stephen king’s writings. i had forgotten about this one, so enjoyed the refresher. hearts in atlantis was another that struck me as unique yet full of lessons and observations about people and choices and honor and character. ‘hearts can break, yes, hearts can break. sometimes i think it would be better if we died when they did, but we don’t.’

    i found it intersting that few people addressed the elephant in the room, and it’s probably the same reason why hugh was baffled that few pepole commented on some of his posts. the subject opens doors that make us uncomfortable, and many squirm while trying to wrap their minds around a delicate subject.

    as for your mother, she was probably kicking against an undertow that maybe even you weren’t aware of… if he was peering at you, voyeur style, who knows what other dark character traits he had. i regret some of my choices as a parent – i realize after getting out of the dysfunction how i too was pulled into a life of being controlled – or that i allowed myself to be controlled.

    and like with you, even if our wounds have closed. the scars will always be there.

    1. Thanks, Z. Your words have brought back some complicated emotions. I had forgotten about exactly why I related to this book and that I had posted about it. You are right about the situation and about being pulled in and controlled. I look back and think about how unhappy we all were, and that unhappiness led to a lot of mistakes and a way of living that was more like surviving than living. Thank you for your wise words! Hearts in Atlantis sounds good.

  8. King is one of my favorite writers. Since you teach writing, I highly recommend his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. A few of his novels that I’ve especially enjoyed include It (for the dialogue if nothing else), Lisey’s Story, The Green Mile, Duma Key: A Novel, and I could go on; however, I didn’t like Under the Dome all that much. Sometimes SK is a lot more sophisticated than than he’s given credit for. When I was in college, my Lit & Comp instructor said that he thought that King would go down in history as a great satirical writer of his time.

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