60 pages 2 hours read

Stephen King


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2011

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Summary and Study Guide


11/22/63: A Novel is by best-selling American author Stephen King. Originally published in 2011, this novel won the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the 2012 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel. In 2016, J. J. Abrams produced an eight-part miniseries based on the book starring James Franco. The protagonist of this novel, Jake Epping, struggles with the knowledge that he can change the world by stopping the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but any change to time will have consequences that will resonate in dark, violent ways.

This study guide refers to the February 2016 Pocket Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster Inc.) paperback version of the novel.

Plot Summary

Jake Epping is a divorced high school English teacher living in Maine. Local diner owner Al Templeton tells him there is a time portal called the rabbit-hole in the storeroom at the back of his diner. It transports those who enter it to the year 1958. Al realized that a man could change the past with knowledge from 2011 and a portal to 1958. He focused on the assassination of US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Unfortunately, as Al watched Lee Harvey Oswald and attempted to determine if he was the lone shooter that fateful day in November of 1963, he developed fatal lung cancer.

Al tells Jake that he wants him to go back and stop the assassination of President Kennedy. Jake insists that they must conduct a test to determine if changing the past will cause catastrophic problems in the future. He decides to go back to stop a brutal attack on the Dunning family that took place on Halloween of 1958. Upon walking through the rabbit-hole for a second time, Jake rents a small apartment in Derry and watches Frank Dunning from a distance. On Halloween night, Jake waits outside the Dunning home and, despite some difficulties, saves the majority of the family. Upon returning to the future, Jake learns that nothing catastrophic has happened due to the changes he made and decides to go forward with Al’s plan to stop the assassination of President Kennedy.

Jake returns to 1958 and drives south, settling in Florida. He moves on to Dallas, getting a bad feeling from the city. Jake realizes he doesn’t have to live in the Dallas area right away and he drives south, stumbling across a small town, Jodie, which feels like home.

Jake rents a house in Jodie and takes a job substitute teaching at the local high school. Not long after this, he meets Sadie Dunhill, a recently separated librarian. However, the lies he is forced to tell and the holes in his past begin to come between him and Sadie. She breaks up with him, and Jake moves back to the Dallas area to keep a closer eye on Lee Harvey Oswald.

Al was unable to determine if Lee Harvey was the sole shooter in Kennedy’s assassination. However, he believed that if Lee Harvey was the sole actor on the night of the April 1963 assassination attempt of General Edwin Walker, then it would prove Lee Harvey was also the sole actor in the Kennedy assassination. For this reason, Jake decides to observe the Walker assassination attempt, and if Lee Harvey was alone that night, Jake would have the evidence he needs to take Lee Harvey out of the equation.

Jake is about to head out on the day of the attempted assassination of Edwin Walker when the phone rings. Sadie’s former husband Johnny has taken her hostage and plans to kill her. Jake quickly rushes back to Jodie, pausing to call his friend Deke Simmons on the way. Together, Jake and Deke rescue Sadie, but not quickly enough to stop Johnny’s suicide or to stop Sadie from suffering a terrible disfiguring cut to her cheek.

Jake moves in with Sadie as she recovers from Johnny’s attack. Due to Sadie’s mounting medical bills and other expenses, Jake decides he needs to make a large bet based on his knowledge of future events in order to keep from running out of money. He remembers a prize fight Al mentioned in the back of his notebook. Jake wins but is badly beaten by a local bookie. It takes weeks for Jake to recover and when he does, he struggles with amnesia.

Sadie pushes Jake to remember who is planning to assassinate the President. No matter how hard Jake tries, he cannot remember the name of the would-be assassin. Just days before the assassination is to take place, Jake remembers the notebook Al gave him. He retrieves it from the bank and his memory quickly comes back.

On November 21, Jake leaves the assisted living facility where he’s been living and returns to Mercedes Street, where he once lived across from the Oswalds. On the morning of November 22, he wakes to find Sadie at his side. Sadie insists on going with Jake to stop Lee Harvey because Jake is still recovering from his extensive injuries. Jake reluctantly agrees.

Jake and Sadie run into several roadblocks on their drive to Dallas. Once at the Texas School Book Depository, they race up the stairs and confront Lee Harvey. When Jake attempts to kill Lee Harvey, Lee Harvey accidentally shoots and kills Sadie. The police down below, alerted by the single shot Lee Harvey got off, kill him.

Jake is taken to the Dallas Police Department where he is interrogated by a detective and an FBI agent. Jake receives a call from President Kennedy before he is taken to the Adolphus Hotel, where the FBI agent visits him and explains that the FBI wants him to disappear. Jake leaves, traveling for five days on various Greyhound buses back to Maine.

The world Jake finds when he returns to 2011 through the rabbit-hole is much different from the one he left. Jake learns that there have been many natural disasters since 1963, and that nuclear weapons have become a standard of warfare. Frightened by what he has done, Jake quickly goes through the rabbit-hole again, resetting the past and fixing the future. However, he is reluctant to return to 2011 because a part of him desperately wants to return to Sadie. Jake struggles with his decision, but he eventually returns to 2011. Jake moves to Massachusetts where he settles for several years. He looks up Sadie on the internet and discovers that she is still alive. Jake travels to Jodie and meets 80-year-old Sadie, who is being honored as the citizen of the century.