I recently finished reading “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King, with an introduction by the author himself. Below I will share my thoughts post-completion, meaning this isn’t exactly a “book review” in a sense. It is more of a reflection piece, as the book definitely made me reflect on a ton of things in my own life, while also scaring the crap out of me. *THERE ARE SPOILERS BEFORE, SO IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET, LOOK AWAY!*
Introduction to Death: As a young child, I remember watching the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” and being *terrified* as a result. It was my first introduction to the idea of death, which is an appropriate concept considering it is one of the main themes within the book.
When Ellie visits the pet Sematary, she begins to fear the death of her cat, forcing her to face the idea that everything dies eventually. Her mother, Rachel, insists that she is too young to worry about such a thing; she is really only projecting her own trauma as a result of the nature of her sister’s premature death when she was only a child.
Shortly after this introduction, Ellie is suddenly thrust into a world where death is everywhere, leaving her to grasp onto anything that can help her cope. She begins to ponder the idea of religion and miracles.
I remember that, after watching the movie for the first time, I had a meltdown because, as I remember telling my mother, I didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to get old. It seems like King did an excellent job of showing a child’s first exposure in such a way that Ellie’s meltdown practically mirrored my own.
Louis’s Distance: The whole time I was reading the book, I made a mental note to myself that Louis Creed was a rather distant father and husband. I first made this note while reading the very first chapter, where he imagines leaving his entire family behind and running off to another state and changing his name. Similarly, he seems to keep a lot from his family, some of it seeming completely unnecessary. Small things. Such as his disdain for his father-in-law. I didn’t fully get why he felt the need to keep to himself his pleasure at not seeing his father-in-law over the thanksgiving holiday. It is definitely something that I would happily share with my family, privately of course.
This may just be a bias considering I am a very open person with my partner, but it really feels like Rachel is left in ignorance for a lot of the book. Some might consider it ‘ignorant bliss’ considering all that is actually hidden from her. Regardless, it seems like Louis’s inner thoughts are meant to seem private on a level that exceeds what is necessary. I get that we all have thoughts that we would rather not say aloud, but it feels like EVERY thought that Louis has is one of those thoughts.
It was just something that seemed odd to me, though, again, it could just be my bias coming into play.
Cyclical: One of my favorite things about this book was the idea that everything was set into motion as a result of a similar situation in the past. To be more specific, the cycle starts when someone or something dies, and someone close is distraught about the death then learns of the burial grounds from an outsider or friend who has been through the same thing. The person or pet comes back different, and every single time it is an unpleasant experience, even if not inherently bad. Then, despite that unpleasant experience, that person tells the next person about the burial grounds and continues the cycle.
Whatever power it is, whatever evil that exists in the burial grounds, has a way of perpetuating this cycle, making sure that it never ends. It is something that is so powerful and dark, and its power ebbs and flows like the ocean. It’s just almost poetic how it is portrayed in the book, even with how ugly and visceral it really is. No matter how unpleasant a person’s experience, something within that evil power compels them to share it with anyone who is willing to listen. It doesn’t matter their morals or beliefs, the power is so strong that they go against everything they know and believe, go against their rational thoughts that tell them it is wrong, and still rope someone else into burying something on that land.
There’s a lot more that I could talk about with this book, but I think I will stop with this: I was talking about it with my nephew the other night, and it kickstarted a really interesting conversation about how we would expand on the burial ground itself. We pondered the idea of how the grounds had gone sour, how the wendigo came into play, and how it played in with tribal myths. It was something that prompted us to research everything and discuss it at length. It was definitely a riveting conversation, which is why I highly recommend this thought-provoking book.