CW: sexual abuse
Stephen King has seen his fair share of success with his most popular horror novels, including “‘Salem’s Lot,” “It,” “Carrie” and “The Shining,” to name a few. These and many others have been adapted into films and TV shows throughout the years. I’ve read roughly 30 out of his 54 published novels, and I have genuinely enjoyed (almost) all of them. Yet “Gerald’s Game,” a personal favorite of mine, seems to be off the popular radar. Published in 1992, the book was recently made into a Netflix original movie, yet the novel and film have not gotten much attention compared to King’s other successes. Though I am not claiming that “Gerald’s Game” is his most well-written book, I can confidently say that it was his most terrifying read.
I experienced my first Stephen King book, “Carrie,” in fifth grade and quickly moved through a handful of King’s more popular works. During the summer of 2013, I read “Gerald’s Game.” I had many of what are often considered King’s scariest books under my belt, yet none of them had ever really fazed me, even at a relatively young age. This was the case until I read “Gerald’s Game.” Something about it felt different. Most of King’s other works deal with monsters and magic; for example, “Carrie,” “It” and “‘Salem’s Lot” respectively deal with telekinesis, clowns and vampires. King’s portrayal of the unreal and the un-dead is often terrifying, but nothing is quite as terrifying as the humanity of “Gerald’s Game.”
At its simplest level, the book recounts the experience of a woman tied to a bed while trying to rekindle her sexual life with her husband. Naturally, the scene is set in a secluded cabin where no help is to be found when her husband dies of a heart attack during sex, leaving her alone and still chained to the bed. Days go by, and the novel finally confronts the terrifying connection between her present pain and the emotional turmoil she faces as she remembers being sexually abused as a child. While other King novels may be more graphically violent or explicit, this book works through a subject that is emotionally disturbing on many different levels. I would definitely not recommend it for a light read, nor would I recommend it to those who are not familiar with Stephen King or horror novels in general. But if you are looking for a good scare more based in realism than are King’s other novels, “Gerald’s Game” is the book for you.