I read my first Stephen King novel at around the age of 12. The book was Pet Semetary and it was the beginning of a lifelong commitment to the man I consider the greatest writer of our time. Long before that, as a very young child, I remember watching The Shining on TV. Redrum, twin girls and a raging river of blood careening down a hotel hallway while little Danny Torrance rode his big wheel bike as fast as his legs could move will forever be burned into my psyche. I loved every terrifying minute of it. Years later, after reading Pet Semetary, I started reading King’s entire backlist including The Shining. Without question, it stands as one of his greatest novels. When I heard that he was writing a sequel, I was immediately very excited and just a tiny bit apprehensive. I mean, how would he do it? Would it stand up next to the original? I can honestly say that I loved this book and I think he gives little Danny Torrance a fitting finale.
Doctor Sleep brings us up-to-date on the life of Dan Torrance since he escaped the horrors of the Overlook Hotel. It hasn’t been an easy road for Dan. He’s been haunted by the things that he experienced, he loses his mother and he is unable to escape the addiction of alcohol that ultimately destroyed his father. He spends much of his life as a nomad, moving from place to place, picking up odd jobs until his drinking gets in the way and he is, once again, forced to move on. Destiny (or fate, with a little help from Dan’s old friend Tony) brings him to the little town of Frazier. He is finally able to make some real friends who get him into AA, help him pick up the pieces and enable to him to carve out a life for himself. He is even able to use his gift of ‘shining’ at the local hospice, assisting those in the final stages of life to peacefully transition into death.
At the center of the story is a young girl named Abra who possesses many of the same gifts as Dan. They establish a sort of telepathic relationship and he becomes a mentor to her. When Abra’s gift makes her the focus the True Knot, a traveling band of psychic ‘vampires’ that torture and kill children who have the ‘shine’, Dan is forced to step in and devise a plan to save Abra’s life. The relationship forged between Dan and Abra is a strong one and it’s extremely satisfying to see the bond that is created out of a great deal of adversity.
Ultimately, this is a story of redemption. It’s all about Dan Torrance making peace with the events of his past, mistakes he’s made along the way and moving on with his life. After all this time, it’s nice to know what happened after the horrors of the Overlook and the little boy who survived it all.