Misery is a fascinating work on so many levels.
First, it’s a horror story about a popular genre writer, Paul Sheldon, who finally meets his “biggest fan” – former RN (currently moonlighting as a serial killer) Annie Wilkes – much to his everlasting chagrin. Second, it’s a mystery full of tension, intrigue, and misdirection – how on Earth is he going to get out of this mess? Third, it’s kind of a “how-to” book on writing that I think many of us newbie writers really appreciated — like getting to look “under the dinosaur’s skirt” to see what’s what.
And finally, there’s a pretty decent romance in there – what could be called the “romantic misadventures of Misery Chastain.” Misery is the beloved heroine of an equally beloved series of romance novels. Beloved by everyone but the author, that is. It’s when writer Paul Sheldon decides that Misery has ripped her last bodice that he truly comes to know misery.
Annie Wilkes was a terrific serial killer. She is a refreshing break from the serial killers we’ve seen so far – she’s female, she has no “message” she’s trying to convey to the idiot masses, she doesn’t appear to have had a tortured childhood, and she doesn’t rape and sexually torture her victims. To be fair, she does torture Paul. A lot. But she agreed he had it coming, so it’s okay.
One thing she does share with one of the other killers we’ve read about so far – nursing. The Sculptor was a nurse, who used his nursing skills to both take care of his invalid Dad, and to keep his victims alive until he needed them dead. Annie is a de-frocked nurse (is this a thing, because if it’s not, it should be) who played one of those “Angel of Death” nurses until she got caught, and afterwards, she just uses her skills, and strength, to keep her favorite author alive until he finishes “her” book.
Apparently, nurses freak more than a few people out.
Another thing Annie shares with the other kids, er, serial killers, is her uncanny ability to notice that a knickknack on a table got moved by half a centimeter. She also has a kind of supernatural insight into other people’s motives – like when they’re trying to be her “friend” just long enough to kill her and escape. Those dirty birds.
While both of these “abilities” might be cool in a non-serial killer person, they are downright frightening in someone like her. Especially if you’re one of the people on the wrong side of the victim/serial killer equation.
This is what happens when Paul Sheldon finds himself in Annie’s “care” – it’s a nerve-wracking game of cat and mouse, or shark and octopus. (And if you think you know who will always win in a game between those two, you haven’t seen the video.) Trying to anticipate, reason-with, please, or otherwise deal with a truly crazy person looks like exhausting work. Even more so when you’re horribly wounded, like Sheldon was, and nobody — not even your agent — knows where you are.
This is actually the second time I read this book. The first time was when it first came out. To be honest, back then I thought Meh. It was one of King’s earliest, if not the earliest, non-supernatural horror story, and frankly, I wasn’t that impressed. People being horrible was nothing new. Give me something freaky and monster-licious, or else! But I’ve grown up, slightly, and now I can really appreciate all the levels of horror King had going on in this book. Just so, so good. Read it!