* CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Body is considered a novella and it originally appeared in the Stephen King collection, Different Seasons which was published in 1982. I absolutely love the movie adaptation, Stand By Me, starring Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix and I was inspired to read the novella after seeing the movie, although I probably didn’t get around to it until a few years later. To squeeze the book in for King’s March, I listened to the audio book, so I’m not sure if that counts as a re-read.
Gordon “Gordie” Lachance remembers the summer in 1960 when he was twelve-years old and the biggest problem he thought he and his best friends Chris Chamberlain, Teddy Duchamp and Vern Tessio had was relieving the boredom of small town life and keeping cool in the Maine heat. All of that changes when Vern presents an opportunity for the boys to see the dead body of a kid from another town. Hungry for some adventure, the boys set off on the long walk and have a number of harrowing experiences along the way, including an encounter with a dreaded dog, playing chicken with a train and a showdown in the woods with a group of menacing older boys. The journey provides much introspection for Gordie on the dysfunction each boy lives with at home, the spirit-killing suffocation of growing up in a small town, and how nothing lasts forever – not childhood, not friendship, not life.
The Body is perfect for the audio book format because the story almost seems designed for hearing. Stephen King provides such exquisite detail for life back in 1960 you get wrapped in a cozy nostalgic blanket. From how people dressed to what they listened to on the radio to the lingo of the day, you feel like you lived that summer of 1960. You feel like you wore Keds, smoked cigarettes in a treehouse and walked along the railway track to the best fishing spot. The characters’ memories become your memories and it was something that struck me about The Body from my first reading all those years ago. That’s not just skill or great writing by Stephen King, that’s magic.
Oy vey! I swear I’m not a prude, but the foul language in the book made my ears burn. Although, it seems very realistic to me that a group of twelve-year old boys would curse like sailors and be digging into their brains for a nastier insult to top the last one. In addition, The Body contains two of Gordie’s short stories (his character dabbles in creative writing) and, while very amusing, they drag on a bit too long in my opinion.
Once again, I bow to the king of storytelling and can’t say enough to adequately praise Stephen King. The Body is a coming-of-age story that is heartfelt and poignant, perfectly capturing the joys of friendship and youth, but also the sadness and fear that comes with the loss of innocence. Much like eating Chinese food, you feel full and satisfied after reading a story like The Body, but it’s so good you just want more and more and more …
NOTE: The trailer below also contains spoilers!