title: Needful Things
author: Stephen King
genre: classic horror
first line: In a small town, the opening of a new store is big news.
rated: 4 out of 5 stars
Master storyteller Stephen King presents the classic #1 New York Times bestseller about a mysterious store than can sell you whatever you desire—but not without exacting a terrible price in return.
“There are two prices for this. Half…and half. One half is cash. The other is a deed. Do you understand?”
The town of Castle Rock, Maine has seen its fair share of oddities over the years, but nothing is a peculiar as the little curio shop that’s just opened for business. Its mysterious proprietor, Leland Gaunt, seems to have something for everyone out on display at Needful Things…interesting items that run the gamut from worthless to priceless. Nothing has a price tag in this place, but everything is certainly for sale. The heart’s desire for any resident of Castle Rock can easily be found among the curiosities…in exchange for a little money and—at the specific request of Leland Gaunt—a whole lot of menace against their fellow neighbors. Everyone in town seems willing to make a deal at Needful Things, but the devil is in the details. And no one takes heed of the little sign hanging on the wall: Caveat emptor. In other words, let the buyer beware…
Needful Things was a re-read and is a toughie to review because it is such a long book with so many characters and events. It is hard to believe my copy is over 20 years old.
In this classic, King takes us to Castle Rock and sets up the scene quite nicely. I love that about his writing, he takes his time introducing his characters and giving us a feel for them. There is a new shop in the small town of Castle Rock called Needful Things and the townspeople are very curious about it. The owner is a man named Leland Gaunt who seems to mesmerize his customers. When you walk into this store you find the perfect item for yourself that you didn’t even know you were looking for until you lay your eyes on it. Everything is for sale but everything comes at a steep price. It is akin to making a deal with the devil. The customers leave with the perfect item but not quite remembering how they promised Leland Gaunt what they would pay for it.
I feel that Needful Things might not be one most think of when thinking of a Stephen King novel but it is a solid read. This is a classic story about the battle between good and evil. I settled right into Castle Rock again and enjoyed my visit there. I spent most of the summer dipping in and out of these 790 pages in between my other reads.
As the book progresses, the characters weave in and out of each other’s lives. Secrets begin to be revealed as insecurities and doubts begin to get the best of some of the townspeople, all because Leland Gaunt sets things in motion.
Two of the main characters are sheriff Alan Pangborn and his girlfriend Polly Chalmers. Alan is a widower with guilt over losing his wife and child. Polly suffers from debilitating arthritis in her hands. She has an air of mystery about her because when she was young she left Castle Rock pregnant and when she returned years later no one really knows what happened to her baby. It is a secret she keeps from everyone, including Alan. She owns her own little store in town called Sew and Sew.
Wilma Jerzyck is a bully and needs anger management therapy. She feeds off drama and loves to start a fight. Her husband is terrified yet in awe of her.
There is also shy Nettie Cob who lives alone with her dog Raider after being released from the penitentiary. She killed her abusive husband years ago and was sent away for it. Wilma has been obsessed with bullying Nettie for some time and tries to find reasons to harass her. Nettie is good friends with Polly and works for her at the Sew and Sew.
So, these characters and several others I haven’t mentioned all walk into Needful Things and they all find something they must have. All except Alan. His natural instincts let him see the items in the shop for what they truly are. He is not fooled and Leland Gaunt knows this about him right away. Before you know it all Hell breaks loose in Castle Rock and Gaunt begins giving his customers guns to settle the scores.
Leland Gaunt is very creepy and as the reader we know what he is pretty early on. Most are mesmerized by him until he touches them, then they are instantly repulsed. He invades these people’s lives and thoughts and pits them all against each other. He knows everyone’s desires, greatest fears and their darkest secrets and he exploits them.
Times changed; methods changed; faces, too. But when the faces were needful they were always the same, the faces of sheep who had lost their shepherd, and it was this sort of commerce that he felt most at home, most like that wandering peddler of old, standing not behind a fancy counter with a Sweda cash register nearby but behind a plain wooden table, making change out of a cigar-box and selling them the same item over and over and over again.
-p. 586, Needful Things by Stephen King
Everyone who purchased something from Leland Gaunt became obsessed over it, they would run home to make sure their item was still there and they would sit and hold it for hours. They were addicted to these items, like Gollum with the Ring. I read that Needful Things was the first novel King wrote after getting sober. I feel his battle with addiction influenced the story-line, how addicted the characters became to these items. There is a mother in the storyline who is so obsessed over her purchase that she doesn’t even care about her kids anymore.
All in all, Needful Things was a solid re-read. I recommend it if you are looking to settle into classic King for a while.
Leland Gaunt relaxed his grip slowly. His big, crooked teeth were exposed in a grin which was both cheerful and surprisingly ugly. All over Castle Rock, dreams blew away and uneasy sleepers rested easy once more.
-p.341, Needful Things
disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of Needful Things .
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