While I still haven’t gathered up the courage to watch the Netflix movie of “Gerald’s Game” (as I said last blog, I’m a bit squeamish), I did start reading the book while we were holed up inside during Hurricane Irma. It took me a little longer than I would’ve liked to finish it, but this makes the second of King’s books I’ve read from start to finish. Yes, I know, I’m way behind, but I’ve found it easier and less time-consuming to watch adaptations of his work. I’ll be getting into more of those this month, as well as that Netflix movie at some point. For now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what this story’s about.
Jessie Burlingame and her husband Gerald go to their isolated cabin to spend some quality time together both in and out of the bedroom. While Jessie has gotten sick of bondage, she allows Gerald to handcuff her to their bed. However, Gerald soon starts taking his game too far and Jessie’s discomfort escalates into hitting him. This causes him to suffer a heart attack and die when he falls off the bed head-first. Now alone and utterly helpless, Jessie must find a way to escape her predicament. But she’ll also have to contend with some obnoxious voices in her head as well as a hungry dog in the meantime.
So, as you can tell, the story is actually pretty “normal.” It didn’t strike me as a Stephen King story at first because when I think of him, I tend to think of his more supernatural tales. That being said, it was a bit hard to get into. I know King loves to add a lot of detail in his descriptions, and the book overall is well-written. But the subject matter was pretty disturbing at times and I kinda felt the story was a bit padded. To me, what this story boils down to is a woman trapped on a bed dealing with her own trauma. It sounds like material that would make a solid short story, but here I just felt like the book was a little too long for its own good.
That’s not to say the very few characters in it are bad. Gerald isn’t around for long, but a lot of his character is developed through Jessie reflecting on their marriage. I thought Jessie herself was fine, even if there were times I got slightly annoyed with her. Part of this was through the voices in her head. Yes, this is one of the weirder and psychological aspects in the book. The voices are meant to reflect people she knew in her life, and they can occasionally be obnoxious. I still liked the idea and thought King executed it well. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the gore aspect, it was to be expected in a story involving a dead guy. I was a little surprised that the aforementioned dog was given a full backstory, though it did add another side to those parts of the story besides Jessie’s.
I won’t go into spoilers, but the most disturbing parts of the book (again, besides the gore) had to do with both trauma that Jessie deals with and the “twist” ending of the book. The trauma was disturbing because it felt like something that could occur in real life. While the twist could arguably be realistic as well, it was such an over the top amount of disturbing that it didn’t work as well for me. I generally didn’t like the twist anyway, as it felt like King was hinting at supernatural stuff that didn’t seem necessary to the story. It just felt tacked on and made the book feel all the more padded.
Overall, “Gerald’s Game” is a gruesome story that probably could’ve been edited down just a tad more. Despite that, the lead character was well-written, the situation and induced trauma/gore were horrifying, and, for better or for worse, the description were richly detailed. If you’re looking for a more “realistic” King story similar to something like “Misery”, give this one a read.