EXCERPT: Her name was Marjorie Kellerman, and she ran the Brunswick library. She also belonged to something called the Southeastern Library Association. Which, she said, had no money because ‘Trump and his cronies took it all back. They understand culture no more than a donkey understands algebra.’
Sixty five miles north, still in Georgia, she stopped at a poky little library in the town of Pooler. Tim unloaded the cartons of books and dollied them inside. He dollied another dozen or so cartons out to the Volvo. These, Marjorie Kellerman told him, were bound to the Yemassee Public Library, about forty miles further north, across the South Carolina state line. But not long after passing Hardeeville, their progress came to a stop. Cars and trucks were stacked up in both lanes, and more quickly filled in behind them.
‘Oh,I hate it when this happens,’ Marjorie said, ‘and it always seems to in South Carolina, where they’re too cheap to widen the highway. There’s been a wreck somewhere up ahead, and with only two lanes, nobody can get by. I’ll be here half the day. Mr Jamieson, you may be excused from further duty. If I were you, I would exit my vehicle, walk back to the Hardeeville exit, and try your luck on Highway 17.’
‘What about all those cartons of books?’
‘Oh, I’ll find another strong back to help me unload,’ she said, and smiled at him. ‘To tell you the truth, I saw you standing there in the hot sun and just decided to live a little dangerously.’
‘Well, if you’re sure.’ The traffic clog was making him feel claustrophobic. The way he’d felt being stuck halfway back in economy class of the Delta flight, in fact. ‘If you’re not, I’ll hang in. It’s not like I’m racing a deadline or anything.’
‘I’m sure,’ she said. ‘It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr Jamieson.’
‘Likewise, Ms Kellerman.’
‘Do you need monetary assistance? I can spare ten dollars if you do.’
He was touched and surprised – not for the first time – by the ordinary kindness and generosity of ordinary folks, especially those without much to spare. America was still a good place, no matter how much some (including himself from time to time) might disagree. ‘No, I’m fine. Thank you for the offer.’
He shook her hand, got out, and walked back along the I-95 breakdown lane to the Hardeeville exit. When a ride was not immediately forthcoming on US 17, he strolled a couple of miles to where it joined State Road 92. Here a sign pointed toward the town of DuPray. By then it was late afternoon, and Tim decided he had better find a motel in which to spend the night. It would undoubtedly be another of the cheesedog variety, but the alternatives – sleeping outside and getting eaten alive by skeeters or in some farmers barn – were even less appealing. And so he set out for DuPray.
Great events turn on small hinges.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”
In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.
MY THOUGHTS: The scariest thing about The Institute? That it is perfectly possible and plausible. Just think about it for a moment. You will think about it for much longer than that when you have finished reading.
I like that King has returned his focus to children, as he did in some of his best and earlier works. And not just to any children, but those who have special powers. Luke Ellis is a TK (telekinetic). His powers aren’t huge, mainly confined to knocking (empty) pizza dishes from the table to the floor. But he is also intelligent. Seriously intelligent. Admission to two colleges at the age of twelve intelligent. Plus he has a good dose of street smarts and common sense. Enough to realise that if he and the other TK and TP (telepathic) teens being held in the Institute can combine their powers for their own use, they may just have a chance of survival.
King’s characterisation is, as always, absolutely superb. We get to know his characters better than we know ourselves. We are privy to their thoughts, we feel their fears, their triumphs, their jealousies, their love. I always feel sad, bereft, when I close a King cover for the final time. I feel like I am farewelling old friends. But that’s all it is, a farewell, a do drop by again. It is never goodbye.
This is a gripping story. If you are a seasoned King reader, or a constant reader as he terms us, the size of this read is nothing. If you are new to Mr King (where have you been?), it may appear daunting. Don’t be put off. You will be spellbound, mesmerized and by the end will be wondering where all those pages went.
If you are wondering what the excerpt I have quoted has to do with Luke Ellis, I can only say ‘lots.’ The two disparate threads are skillfully combined for an explosive and satisfying ending.
The Institute is an emotional read, creepy, horrifying, and perfectly possible. While I don’t think that it’s his best ever, it is pretty much up there. Thanks for stopping by, Mr King. I will see you again, soon.
…her fear was like a rat running on a wheel in the middle of her head.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father’s family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen’s grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.
Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.
He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men’s magazines.
Stephen made his first professional short story sale (“The Glass Floor”) to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men’s magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.
In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.
DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Institute, written by Stephen King, published by Hodder and Stoughton. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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