Joyland by Stephen King
In 1973, Devin Jones was in love with Wendy Keegan; they had dated for more than two years and had been together for almost every moment of that time. Then, for summer vacation, instead of staying and working in the cafeteria as always with Devin, Wendy decided to work in Boston with her best friend. Devin heartbroken, applied for a job at Joyland in North Carolina. He interviewed during the spring break. Before catching his bus back to the college, he stopped by Emmaline Shoplaw’s boarding house to arrange for a room to rent over the summer while he worked at the park.
Before he left, she fed him lunch and told him the story of the ghost of the horror house at Joyland. She said she hadn’t seen the ghost herself, because she wouldn’t go to the horror house. She knew s murder had been committed. She told Dev the story she had gleaned from newspapers and from her Joyland friends.
Once he began working at Joyland, the fortune teller there told him that he’d meet a little girl wearing a red hat and holding a doll and a little boy with a dog.
The breakup, the ghost of the girl, the girl with the doll, the boy with the dog, and wearing the fur all have an impact on Devin Jones during his time at Joyland.
Some years, we just feel things more intensely than others. No one expresses this better than Stephen King, or brings back the memories of those times better. He is also the master of the craft when it comes to character development.
Joyland is not a horror story; it is a murder mystery and a coming of age story, mixed with the bittersweet realization of the frailty of life. It is lovely and sad, and ultimately lonely, as so often beautiful things are.