I know Stephen King is considered one of the great storytellers of our generation, but he hasn’t been my cup of tea that often. Of course, I read Carrie — didn’t everyone? — but after that I didn’t keep following. I like science fiction and suspense, but I’m not the biggest fan of horror, and that was King’s forte — so I skipped The Shining and Cujo and Christine and It and all that. I couldn’t finish 11/22/63, one of his more recent books, after it failed to capture my interest after around 100 pages.
But I also respected his book On Writing and the story that the film Stand By Me is based on, and The Shawshank Redemption is quite a feat. So my mind is open to trying any of King’s efforts.
So when Fairy Tale kept coming up in a Facebook reading group I frequent, I finally couldn’t resist. And my, oh my.
Charlie Reade is a 17-year-old boy in rural Illinois whose mother was killed in a horrific traffic accident 10 years ago. His dad descended into the bottle and didn’t start climbing out until one night Charlie — in desperation, not faith — prays for a miracle. That very night a friend of his father stopped by and talked him into going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, turning his life around, so Charlie figures he owes God a good deed or two.
One day a dog’s whines lead Charlie to discover the crotchety old man who lives in the mysterious “Psycho House” at the top of the hill. The old guy has fallen and severely broken his leg, and Charlie ends up promising to take care of the German shepherd, Radar, while the man is hospitalized, in large part because he figures it’s time to keep the promise he made in that prayer, but a bond begins to grow with the old man and especially Radar.
The cover of Fairy Tale shows a young man and a German shepherd climbing down a mysterious spiral staircase, and it’s an apt illustration, because this is the story of the boy, the dog, and what lies at the bottom of those stairs. The story includes shoutouts to Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu, but on the bottom line Charlie’s story is exactly what the title promises, a dark fairy tale. And that’s a good thing.
I’ve already told you more than I knew about the story going in, and I think this is a good novel to go into cold and let the surprises surprise you, so I’ll stop here, except to say I highly recommend Fairy Tale as one of the best books in recent memory.