Sunday, November 29, 2009

Just After Sunset

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever feared for your life? Do you think dreams come true?

In his latest collection of short stories, Just After Sunset, Stephen King writes about ghosts, near death experiences, dreams that come true, and abuse among several other serious and scary topics.

King opens with a story called Willa. Willa and her fianc√©, David, are stuck at a train station after their train derailed. Willa, David, and the other train riders are patiently waiting for Metra to send a new train to rescue them, but Willa is growing impatient and wanders off. David decides to travel into town, which is several miles away, to find Willa. He finds her sitting in a booth at a local bar listening to music. We quickly realize that Willa and the others aren’t quite what they seem.

The second story is called The Gingerbread Girl. The Gingerbread Girl is about a woman named Emily. She had recently lost her baby and turned to running to deal with the pain and grief. One day, she cannot stop and does not just run down the street, but all the way to a hotel. Then, she decided that was not far enough and continued to run all the way to her father’s summer home. Emily continues to run and run and run. One day she stops and talks to Deke Hollis who is in charge of the draw bridge on the island. On this particular day, Deke mentions that Pickering was back and continues by saying that he is not a nice man. Emily does not think much of it and leaves Deke to run back home. On her way, she notices that Pickering’s gate is open and she sees hair hanging out of the trunk of his car. She moves closer and realizes it is a dead woman and then the world goes black.

King continues his eerie writing in the third short story called Harvey’s Dream. Harvey’s Dream opens with his wife’s description of him. Harvey has good days and bad days and Janet, his wife, knows a lot has changed since they were young and in love. On most Saturdays, Harvey is not with it, but on this Saturday, Harvey is very aware and coherent. He begins to tell Janet about a dream he had the night before. As he is telling the story, Janet realizes that his dream is coming true. Harvey begins by telling Janet that he woke up early and looked out the window and saw a dent in the neighbor’s car, which ironically Janet had actually noticed that very morning. Then, in Harvey’s dream the phone rings and it is Trisha, their oldest daughter. Through sobs, Harvey learns that the police called Trisha because they couldn’t get a hold of him to tell him that one of his other daughters had died. The next thing he knew, he was awoken by his own screams. Janet does not enjoy this dream at all and begins to feel very sick. Then, the phone rings and Harvey gets up to answer it.

Read Just After Sunset to find out how these stories end!

This book would work well for high school students, most likely eleventh or twelfth graders. King covers several serious topics such as death, near death experiences, and abuse. Younger students would not have the maturity or mental capacity to read these stories. I personally found this book to be boring. The first three stories were captivating and I couldn’t stop reading, but the remaining stories were not as interesting to me. I think students would enjoy this book because of the short stories. It would be easy for a student to sit down and read one or more of the stories. I think some students would be apprehensive to read this book because of its size. It is over 500 pages and might seem intimidating to some. I do not think this book could be used in other content areas. I do not think this is a good book to teach in a classroom setting. The majority of the characters are not adolescents so it might be hard for students to relate to the stories. I think it should be used as a choice book.


Stu1980 said...

I love King but find him very hit and miss. His style is often long, and loses you (I am halfway through Skeleton Crew and The Talisman) and it is hard to get round to finishing his book sometimes. Certain stories of his would be great to teach (The Mist for example), but this one sounds challenging.

Marcella said...

I agree with Stu, I read King often during high school and loved some of his books and there were others that I was not too fond of. Maybe picking out the short stories that were the most interesting would work better when teaching this book. I also agree that King is more suit for older readers, but I do remember reading him quite early in high school because I was bored by all the other books we were reading so the students may surprise you.

Andra said...


How you're feeling is exactly how I felt reading this one. I started it during the first week of Bookwind and just finished it this weekend, and I had to force myself to do so.


I agree that this book could be used to challenge students who are bored like you were. It deals with tough issues and uses what I would consider to be adult language/vocabulary.

Thank you both for your comments!


Tom Philion said...

I'm curious, andra--do you think this book would appeal more to boys than girls? I ask because several books have been identified as "girl-friendly" by reviewers, and also King in my adolescent experience was especially popular with male readers (and I believe remains so, overall).

why might this be?


Andra said...


Yes, I do think boys would enjoy this book more than girls. I think King is popular with males because a) he's a male; b) he writes dark stories (kidnapping, murder, etc.); and c) the short stories (specifically talking about this book). Just my thoughts :-)