Bookish Wednesday: Salem's Lot

When I was gifted Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, I was uneasy. Of course, I had heard about the author’s exceptional stories and had always been intrigued by the horror genre, but I could never bring myself to pick up one of his novels because I was too scared. So after this particular book was put in my hands, it sat on my bookshelf for weeks until I convinced myself to accept the challenge and give it a try. It was a decision I didn't regret.

Salem’s Lot was originally published in 1975, and it became Stephen King’s second published novel ever. It follows Ben Mears, a struggling writer with the weight of a tragic accident on his shoulders, as he returns to his childhood home-- the town of Jerusalem’s Lot in Maine. He believes this visit to the past will help him heal and provide inspiration for his new novel. However, there’s a lot more to Salem’s Lot than meets the eye, and Ben soon finds himself caught in a battle against an unspeakable evil.

At first glance, Salem’s Lot seems like a boringly ordinary town where nothing ever happens with equally boringly ordinary people. Underneath its calm surface, it harbors sinful secrets, both human and supernatural, that have been rotting away for decades, yearning for an opportunity to come out. When Ben arrives, he becomes the talk of the town. Some are suspicious of this newcomer, while others remember him from his time spent there as a child.

He sets out to investigate the Marsten House, the old and abandoned mansion that stands guard over the town. It was owned by Hubert “Hubie” Marsten in the 1920s, and it is said that ol’ Hubie hung himself in the upstairs bedroom after shooting his wife in the head. Everyone knows the story, but no one dares go near its grounds; it’s been shrouded in mystery for over 50 years. Then, the residents of the Lot learn that the house has been purchased by two mysterious businessmen who open an antique shop in town. Around the same time they arrive, two young boys go missing in the woods, and everything goes downhill from there.

Little by little, every night, people begin to disappear. Some are later found dead, while others seem to have vanished into thin air. Only Ben and a select few suspect that something has gone horribly wrong, and they make it their mission to save the town from its demons before it’s too late.

I was blown away by this book. It started out rather slow, but that’s because King takes his time in describing every place and character down to the last detail in order to bring the town and its inhabitants to life. King masterfully creates a dark and sinister atmosphere that lurks throughout the story and lingers in your mind after you finish it. It’s the kind of book that gives you chills and leaves you disoriented because you’ve spent so much time immersed inside Salem’s Lot that it becomes your reality.

Coming from someone who is easily scared and steers clear of all things horror, Salem’s Lot was a pleasant surprise. With a healthy dose of mystery, horror and the macabre, it is sure to grip you even after it’s done. I’ll be reading more Stephen King from now on, and I recommend you do too, if you haven’t already!


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