The book begins with Jake Epping, an English teacher in Maine recounting his failed marriage. He next tells us of earning some extra money helping adults earn their GEDs. It is here that we get some true insight into Jake’s character because he tells us how he cried over an essay called “The Janitor’s Father”. It was poorly written, but he cried non-the-less (something he rarely does). Because of the emotion it evoked, he gave the writer an A+. At graduation, he takes the Janitor, who walks with a severe limp, to a local diner, where burgers cost only a dollar (keep in mind this is 2011).
The next year, when school let’s out, the owner of the diner, Al Templeton calls Jake while he’s at school and asks him to come to the diner. Jake arrives to see a sign that says “Closed due to illness”. Al let’s him in, and it is here that Al let’s him in on his secret: He’s been trying to save JFK’s life, but because Al is dying, he has to pass the torch on. He then relates a story of how he knows the past can be changed. But every time someone goes into the past, it’s a complete reset.
Jake wants to try his own experiment, and The Janitor is just the person. He goes through the portal to September 1958. He travels to Derry where we catch up with Bev and Ritchie from IT after they defeated the clown (a nice treat for fans of that book) who aide Jake. He is able to accomplish his mission, and head back to his own time to check the results. Next time, he steps back in time, he’ll have to do it all over again.
Traveling from Maine to Florida to New Orleans to Texas, there is a passing mention of Arnette (sorry, Hap’s Station doesn’t make an appearance). Jake finally lands in a small town called Jodie.
Mixing history with sci-fi, this is King’s best in years. There is suspense, romance, and adventure. A lot of the history is real. Some of it, like the Prize Fight that Jake attends a few weeks before Kennedy’s assassination, for all that I can find, appears to be fictional (with one made up Boxer). This is an amazing piece of work that I highly recommend to anyone, regardless whether they are fans.