A high school English teacher discovers a portal to the past through which he can go back in time to change history. 11/22/63 is about a teacher from Maine who travels back in time with the intention of stopping the assassination of President Kennedy. Jake Epping is an English teacher at a high school in a small town in Maine. He discovers a portal back in time through, Al, the owner of a local diner he frequents. Al found this time travel portal in a back closet of his diner by accident one day, some years ago. He is able to keep his prices very low at the diner because when he travels back to the 1950s, he also purchases his hamburger meat at a very, very low price compared to today's 2011 prices.
Al decides that he should do something more important with his ability to time travel, but he is getting old and now has terminal cancer. He decides to tell Jake about the portal and tells him his idea of stopping the JFK murder and perhaps changing history and avoiding the killing of thousands of young men involved in the Vietnam war. He tells Jake there are few things he must know if he takes on this task to change history on his own, since he (Al) cannot accomplish it, though he has tried once. When stepping down his back staircase into the time portal, Al always comes upon the same day and year, no matter how many times he has been there. It is always September 9, 1958. No matter how long he stays in the past (and has stayed there for as long as five years), in the present-day of 2011, he finds that he is only actually gone for two minutes when he returns. Also interesting is the fact that, no matter what he has done to change the past when he time travels, once he comes back to 2011 and returns to 1958 again, everything he did to change the past resets itself, as though it is the first time he has entered the past. It's as though if he changes the past and did not do it correctly, he gets a "do-over."
Jake takes short trial trip to see if Al is crazy or not. His main reason for his wish to return to the past is to save one of his GED night students, who is the janitor at his high school. The janitor, when he was just a boy, witnessed his entire family being murdered by his father in 1958. The janitor also was assaulted during the murderous rampage and has some handicaps as a result. Jake wants to kill the father before he can murder the family, thereby changing this whole family's life for the better. He accomplishes this goal, murders the father, and returns to 2011. He now believes everything Al told him and is ready to take on the herculean task of stopping the murder of JFK. This, however, would involve Jake living in the past from 1958 until he has taken care of Lee Harvey Oswald. But first, Jake and Al must be assured the Oswald committed the murder alone. If he was indeed a "patsy" as he complained he was upon his arrest, then Jake would not feel right about killing this man in cold blood.
So Jake goes back to 1958 and uses the name George Amberson and takes a local teaching job. Eventually, he moves to Florida, then to Jodie, Texas, a small town not far from Dallas, where the assassination takes place. "George" obtains a teaching job in Jodie and falls in love with the new librarian there, Sadie. She is in the process of getting a divorce from a very strange man she married, who was a germaphobe and never consummated the marriage with her. Instead, he insisted that she give him a hand job once or twice a week to "get it all out" and then places a broom between them on their bed so they won't touch one another. Sadie is very innocent and naive, but eventually realizes that this is not a natural way to live. She and Jake begin to date and become serious, even though she knows that something is "off" about George, too.
Sadie's ex-husband, Clayton, finds where she is living and being sinful with her new boyfriend. He comes at her with a butcher's cleaver but George and their good friend, Deke, enter just in time. Clayton does end up slashing Sadie's face and leaving her with a horrible, debilitating scar, then he commits suicide. This is all during the time that George should have been tracking Oswald and striking him down before JFK even comes to Dallas. He's missed his chance and must now wait for a better time. Eventually, George tells Sadie everything about the time portal and JFK and she believes him and wants to help.
At the zero hour on 11-22-63, George and Sadie make their way to Dallas by bus. The past is constantly trying to stop them from changing anything, adn they run into all types of obstacles. Finally they are at the School Book Depository, where Oswald is waiting for JFK with his rifle aiming out the window. George fires his pistol at Oswald and misses him but the shot hits the window ledge, throwing off his aim. A shot is fired at the passing Presidential entourage but it misses them. Oswald then turns his gun on George, but it misses and kills Sadie. George is devastated and he kills Oswald.
George is honored as a hero for stopping a murder attempt on the president but the FBI is wary of him and wants him to disappear. George has no problem with that and returns to 2011 but is devastated over the loss of Sadie. He further discovers upon his return to the present, that his stopping the assassination only made the world worse! Earthquakes and tsunamis have broken out everywhere, and people are scarred and sick because of nuclear warhead attacks. Bill Clinton has died of a heart attack and never was President, but his wife is the President at this point. The Beatles have gotten back together for a charity concert to raise funds for all of the disasters, thus assuming that John Lennon was never murdered. Many other catastrophes have occurred, though, that make Jake decide that what he did was all wrong. So he goes back to the past for a very brief time to "reset" the world.
When he returns to the present, everything is pretty much as it was before he stopped the assassination. The only big regret he has is that Sadie is not in his life. So he looks up newspaper articles from the past to see what has happened to her and discovers that she is still alive today, and is about 80 years old. He goes to Jodie, Texas to meet her. They dance together just as they once did, though she does not know who he is. He is satisfied with this and Jake continues on with his life in 2011.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked this story because it was fun to imagine avoiding the killing of JFK but I hated that it was so long and meandering, often going quite off topic of the main plot of the story.
Best scene in story:
My favorites scenes were discovering how the world had changed once Jake stopped the assassination.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Jake Epping's character, though he seemed a little goofy at times. He is a man of character, though, and has his ethics and morals in place.
Shawn Ward on 12/26/2015 11:38:20 PM says: My favorite part of this book is when Jake first goes back in time; then comes back and then goes again, and "relives" the past he originally went to....the differences, and similarities, were interesting to me. It was fun to go through, vicariously, of course....