Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Gingerbread Girl, by Stephen King

The Gingerbread Girl
Stephen King
Esquire: July 2007

The Gingerbread Girl opens with a woman, Emily, who needs to run. Her daughter had died in the crib and running was the only release to the pain. First to the end of the driveway, but later miles at a time. Running was essential. Her husband did not see running as a positive, but rather as a way to avoid the pain. Perhaps to avoid the pain of a failing marriage, perhaps just to get away, but Emily runs again, this time away from her husband. She accepts her father's offer to live his small vacation home in Vermillion Key, Florida and there she begins to heal. And run.

When Emily sees what appears to be a body in the trunk of a car owned by a neighbor she was warned about, Emily makes the mistake to take a closer look to make sure it isn't a fake. She sees that the body is the real thing, and that's when Emily's terror begins.

The Gingerbread Girl is not one of King's strongest stories and I say this having only read a small handful of King's short fiction output (or novel length output, for that matter). But, having read the four novellas in Different Seasons and knowing just how many stories of his have been adapted to movies, and having read a couple of his novels, The Gingerbread Girl does not hold up and it is unlikely to hold up as I get deeper into the back catalogue of Stephen King. It is a very straightforward story, no real twists, but some decent scary moments for the character (perhaps not so much for the reader.) With that said, I was entertained the entire way through The Gingerbread Girl. King has a very matter of fact writing style which I would imagine lends itself well to orally telling his stories. That’s just a guess. The feeling that comes from The Gingerbread Girl is that of Cool Uncle Stevie sitting down and telling a scary story about a woman who thought she was running away from something, but ended up running into a whole 'nother world of trouble. There is a conversational feel to The Gingerbread Girl.

The straightforward, matter of fact storytelling is effective in King's work. He moves the story along at a brisk pace and keeps the reader interested all the way through. That other novels and stories are creepier and more engaging is a mark of his talent. Stephen King can flat out tell a story, even one that has is only firing on two or three cylinders. I cannot hold The Gingerbread Girl up and say "Woo Hoo! Hey, guys, you’ve got to read this great story I just read. It's by Stephen King and..." It's not quite that good. The Gingerbread Girl is solid, though. It is entertaining. It is something of a beach read, fast paced, and worth the time spending stepping into the story. But even with my limited Stephen King experience, I’m positive that the man is capable of better. And that's okay. Even a lesser effort by Stephen King is a good read.

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