"Pet Sematary" by Stephen King

" The Creeds. An ideal family. Physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son. Close, loving, wonderfully alive. When they found the old house and enchanting grounds in rural Maine, it seemed too good to be true. It was. For the truth was bloodchilling- - - something more horrifying than death itself, and hideously more powerful...."

Louis Creed, the main character of Stephen King's 'Pet Sematary,' wants a good life for his family. He's starting his first term as a newly appointed doctor for the University of Maine. Louis' family moved from Chicago to Maine for this very job, which consists of his young daughter, Ellie, his wife, Rachel, his infant son, Gage, and Ellie's black cat, Church (which is short for Winston Churchill). This cat quickly becomes the topic of conversation when the Creeds' new neighbor, Jud Crandall, warns them about the road in front of their house: " 'I'd get him fixed, ' Crandall said, crushing his smoke between his thumb and forefinger. 'A fixed cat don't tend to wander as much. But if it's all the time crossing back and forth, its luck will run out, and it'll end up there with the Ryder kids' coon and little Timmy Dessler's cocker spaniel and Missus Bradleigh's parakeet. Not that the parakeet got run over in the road, you understand. It just went feet up one day.' "

When Louis becomes curious about a trail behind his new home that leads into the woods, Jud gladly introduces the Creed family to the infamous 'Pet Sematary.' A place where children, for years, have buried their pets when they die. This place, and the death of Church, form the starting basis of King's amazing novel.

Louis' life suddenly changes after the death of a University student named Victor Pascow, and gets even worse when Louis starts to have dreams about him. One night, even the ghost of Pascow shows up at Louis' house: " He stood there with his head bashed in behind the left temple. The blood had dried on his face in maroon stripes like Indian warpaint. His collarbone jutted whitely. He was grinning. 'Come on, Doctor,' Pascow said. 'We got places to go.' " Louis ends up following Pascow to the pet sematary where he tells him: " 'I come as a friend,' Pascow said--- but was friend actually the word Pascow had used? Louis thought not. It was as if Pascow had spoken in a foreign language which Louis could understand through some dream magic... and friend was as close as to whatever word Pascow had actually used that Louis's struggling mind could come. ' Your destruction and the destruction of all you love is very near, Doctor.' He was close enough for Louis to be able to smell death on him. "

Later on, Louis feels Pascow's premonition might be coming true when he finds that Church has been killed by a passing vehicle. Jud, who happened to find Church, tells him to follow him so that they can bury the cat, but Jud doesn't stop at the pet sematary as expected, instead he goes past a deadfall barrier and continues on to a place he calls the Micmac Burial Ground, a burial ground that was made by the Micmac Indians. Through this entire scene, Louis experiences paranormal-type things, including the maniacal laughter of a disembodied voice. Jud warns Louis to not pay any attention to anything he experiences here: " 'You might see St. Elmo's fire- - - what the sailors call foo-lights. It makes funny shapes, but it's nothing. If you should see some of those shapes and they bother you, just look the other way. You may hear sounds like voices, but they are the loons down south toward Prospect. The sound carries. It's funny.' "

Now, the real story begins when Church returns to the house after his burial, where Louis finds dried blood on the cat's face and small pieces of plastic from the garbage bag his body had been in. Breathing and eating, the cat has certainly come back to life, but Louis notices that Church isn't the same as he was before; while Louis is in a hot bath, Church takes a seat on the toilet, where we witness him swaying back and forth, from this point on, Louis starts to regret following Jud to the Micmac burial ground.

Ellie, Louis' daughter, begins to suspect that something is different about Church, but she shrugs it off and doesn't necessarily question it:

" 'Daddy?' Ellie said in a low, subdued voice.

'What, Ellie? '

'Church smells funny.'

'Does he?' Louis asked, his voice carefully neutral.

'Yes!' Ellie said, distressed. 'Yes, he does! He never smelled funny before! He smells like... he smells like ka-ka!'

'Well, maybe he rolled in something bad, honey,' Louis said. 'Whatever that bad smell is, he'll lost it.'

'I certainly hope so,' Ellie said in a comical dowager's voice. She walked off. " King spends a majority of 'Pet Sematary' addressing everyone's fear of death; he discusses parents' fear of explaining death to their children for the first time, and even makes readers face the real nightmare of losing a child.

And the realism that King writes about is what makes him the great writer that he is today. King writes about the death of a child, but also makes Louis into a very real character that any parent could relate to. While many books touch on this subject, none can touch on grief like King does: " It was well for Louis- - - well for all three of the remaining family members--- that Steve had shown up as promptly as he had, because Louis was at least temporarily unable to make any kind of decision, even one so minor as giving his wife a shot to mute her deep grief. Louis hadn't even noticed that Rachel had apparently meant to go to the morning viewing in her housecoat, which she had misbuttoned. Her hair was uncombed, unwashed, tangled. Her eyes, blank brown orbits, bulged from sockets so sunken that they had almost become the eyes of a living skull. Her flesh was doughy. It hung from her face. She sat at the breakfast table that morning, munching unbuttered toast and talking in disjointed phrases that made no sense at all. At one point she had said abruptly, 'About that Winnebago you want to buy, Lou---' Louis had last spoken about buying a Winnebago in 1981. "

Yet, this isn't a book about grief, but a horror book about grief, which King masterfully put together. He molds the darkness of losing a child with the horror of making zombies, but King makes the story seem so realistic that any parent would go to the lengths that Louis did - - -and Jud, for that matter - - - even with the dire consequences at stake: " You're slanting all the evidence in favor of the conclusion you want to produce, his [Louis] mind protested. At least tell yourself the goddamned truth about the change in Church. Even if you want to disqualify the animals--- the mice and the birds--- what about the way he is? Muddled... that's the best word of all, that sums it up. The day we were out with the kite. You remember how Gage was that day? How vibrant and alive he was, reacting to everything? Wouldn't it be better to remember him that way? Do you want to resurrect a zombie from a grade-B horror picture? Or even something so prosaic as a retarded little boy? A boy who eats with his fingers and stares blankly at images on the TV screen and who will never learn to write his own name? What did Jud say about his dog? 'It was like washing a piece of meat.' Is that what you want? A piece of breathing meat? And even if you're able to be satisfied with that, how do you explain the return of your son from the dead to your wife? To your daughter? To Steve Masterton? To the world? What happens the first time Missy Dandridge pulls into the driveway and sees Gage riding his trike in the yard? Can't you hear her screams, Louis? Can't you see her harrowing her face with her fingernails? What do you say to the reporters? What do you say when a film crew from 'Real People' turns up on your doorstep, wanting to shoot film of your resurrected son? "

Pet Sematary is an emotional thrill ride, with Louis as a very relatable character, and the writing makes this a must-read book for all readers. With one of my favorite descriptive parts taking place in the 'Little God Swamp' that exists just outside of the Micmac Burial Ground when King describes the legendary Wendigo:

" The mist stained to a dull slate- gray for a moment, but this diffuse, ill-defined watermark was better than sixty feet high. It was no shade, no insubstantial ghost; he could feel the displaced air of its passage, could hear the mammoth thud of its feet coming down, the suck of mud as it moved on. For a moment he believed he saw twin yellow- orange sparks high above him. Sparks like eyes. "

The novel is so well-written that it reads easily, and King's descriptions put the reader right inside of the book.

With a few inconsistencies here and there, and overuse of some words, Pet Sematary is a very enjoyable book for lovers of the horror genre. I highly recommend this book!

- Hadley

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