Pet Sematary by Stephen King


A rule of thumb- after your daughter’s newly resurrected cat comes back ‘stunted,’ 99.9% experts would advise you against burying your kid in the same Godforsaken place and in hopes that he will return from the dead as well. But that doesn’t stop Louis Creed, does it?

Believe it or not, this is my first Stephen King, though frankly I was a tiny bit disappointed at what I found to be solid yet somewhat overhyped prose. Don’t get me wrong, King has a great story to tell and some interesting commentary on grief and the dangers of meddling with the unspeakable, but I found the writing in general to be a bit underwhelming.

First, let’s dig into the premise itself- family man Louis has a loving wife, Rachel, and two great kids, Ellie and Gage. Together they move to a small town in Maine and Louis strikes up a friendship with grizzled local Jud Crandall. The damper on their otherwise happy life- the creepy burial ground built by the Micmacs years before unnervingly close to Louis’ property.

This is not the eponymous ‘Pet Sematary’, but a site relatively close behind it. Once the haunted locale gets hold of Louis, all bets are off (a string of disasters follow soon thereafter.) Despite Jud triying to convince Louis that ‘sometimes dead is better’ in the wake of tragedy, Louis in compelled to meddle with things that are not to be meddled with- with predictably horrific results.

In the dark, dank world of “Pet Sematary,” the beautiful, the natural, the wholesome can all be taken away with a domino effect of chaos. Stephen King does a pretty good job of playing on our basest fears, and on the inside the very old hardcover copy I read it said that this book was the one that Stephen King himself had trouble finishing.

I don’t know if this was legit or a marketing ploy- I didn’t think the book was that shocking, but I guess it’s different if you’re a parent of a small child (considering the gruesome death and reanimation of a very lovable child character.) However, I had some problems with the writing.

I hate repetition in prose when there isn’t a good reason for it, and there was lots of unnecessary repeating of words and phrases here- the nonsensical utterance of “Hey ho, let’s go” (I know it’s a line from a song, but what the hell does it have to do with anything in context, anyway?) Every so often Louis would think something ‘randomly’ or ‘stupidly,’ or refrain from bursting into hysterical, horrified laughter at the drop of a hat.

How often does one burst into maniacal laughter, I wonder? I was also driven to  interpret moments in the story in a totally inappropriate way. For instance, I found myself feeling sorry for Church (Ellie’s cat, who returns from buying the farm only to be kicked around by the repulsed Louis) and disturbed by the portrayal of Rachel’s disabled sister Zelda as a deformed, evil freak.

I found this book a little overlong at almost 400 pages, even though it’s one of the shortest books Stephen King wrote (!) To be fair, I was having a lot of mental health problems at the time, including repetitive re-reading, one of the staples of my OCD diagnosis. Now I’m wondering if I’m ever going to read that “Under the Dome” book I bought cover to cover.

Now, for a question for readers- is the “Pet Sematary”  worth watching? Also, what Stephen King books would you recommend to a newbie?

4 thoughts on “Pet Sematary by Stephen King”

  1. I saw the movie in the 90’s and a teenager and had nightmare for weeks! The kid was creepy… I wonder how the CGI holds up after all these years.

    1. That’s funny, because I’ve heard from family that the movie is TERRIBLE. I guess it might depend on what impressionable age the viewer is. My dad got me to watch “An American Werewolf in London” and “The Shining”, two horror classics, when I was like twelve… they scared the s**t out of me! I couldn’t going in the bathroom without opening the curtain in the tub to make sure the zombie witch chick from TS wasn’t in there, and I dreaded the possibility of a visit from the Nazi aliens in the AAWIL dream sequence. To be honest, they still scare me a little. But now at age 20 I have toughened up horror wise and can even handle extreme horror.

      1. I think I was about 15 (now 40). I am a chicken though. When I saw the first Paranormal movie a couple of years ago, I was terrified. Extreme horror isn’t my thing 🙂

  2. I’m pretty sure the book flap comment about how King had trouble finishing this book is true; I’ve heard it a lot from other sources as well as from the man himself when I heard him speak at UMass Lowell in 2012. He’s always said that Pet Sematary is the book that scared him the most out of what he wrote; he never actually intended to publish it, as both he and his wife agreed after he finished it that he might have “gone too far.” It only got published because he needed one last book to finish out a contract with a publisher before moving to a new one, and he wanted to make the move sooner rather than later, so he dredged up Pet Sematary from the bottom of his desk drawer and submitted it. He expected it to flop—he truly thought no one would want to read it—and was amazed when it didn’t.

    That being said, I think I have to agree that it’s one of his more disturbing novels, implication-wise. I’ve read it a few times, but I don’t think it’s one that I’m going to continue reading now that I’m old enough to really understand what he’s saying. (First read it when I was a teenager and so I guess I didn’t really “get it.”)

    Newbie recommendations: Carrie (short, cool format, pretty horrifying if you’re into that; also his first published novel); Different Seasons (four different novellas, very little supernatural stuff, just good stories, includes “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body,” which was the basis for the movie “Stand By Me”); The Shining (it’s a classic); and maybe Bag of Bones (more recent—1998—and one of my favorites, but skip if you’re not into super long books).

    Happy reading! 🙂

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