“Everything I did, I did for love…”
When Vera Donovan, one of the wealthiest and most ill-natured residents of Maine’s Little Tall Island, dies suddenly in her home, suspicion is immediately cast on her housekeeper and caretaker, Dolores Claiborne. Dolores herself is no stranger to such mistrust, thanks to the local chatter and mysterious circumstances surrounding her abusive husband’s death twenty-nine years earlier. But if this is truly to be the day of Dolores Claiborne’s reckoning, she has a few things of her own that she’d like to get off her chest…and begins to confess a spirited, intimate, and harrowing tale of the darkest secrest hidden within her hardscrabble existence, revealing above all one woman’s unwavering determination to weather the storm of her life with grace and protect the one she loves, no matter what the cost….
I found my copy of Dolores Claiborne at a local used book and record shop while I was out Christmas shopping last year. I figured it was time to read this one, I saw the film version many years ago.
As the book starts off, Dolores is a 65 year old widow from Maine who is suspected of killing her employer, a woman named Vera Donovan. Vera was a rich and miserable widow and tough on her staff. She would fire people for any minor thing like stopping to chat. Dolores worked as her live in housekeeper for decades. Towards the end of her life Vera had dementia and Dolores especially struggled to care for her because of Vera’s sadistic mean streak.
These two had a strange relationship, on the one hand Vera was cruel and mentally abusive, on the other hand she needed Dolores, especially towards the end. Dolores could have easily quit and found work elsewhere, but she put up with the abuse all those years and even wound up living in Vera’s home. Although on opposites sides of the spectrum in regards to social status, these two women shared a bond. They confided in each other. Dolores was also the only person brave enough to put Vera in her place and Vera knew she needed that.
The story is told by Dolores as she tells the police what happened while working for Vera all those years. She claims she did not kill Vera but she does admit to a different murder, that of her late husband Joe St. George almost 30 years earlier. There were always rumors speculating that Dolores killed him, so she admits to what happened on a fateful day in July in 1963. The couple had three children, Selena, Joe Jr. and Pete. Dolores goes onto tell her story from the beginning when she married Joe to how he became an abusive alcoholic and a child molester.
Dolores is not quite a like-able character but she is not unlike-able either, she is really rough around the edges. She led a hard life, at times working three jobs as a young mom to help put food on the table. Her marriage to Joe was horrible and her work life was sad as well. She was however, a good mom and she aimed for all three of her children to go to college and have better lives than she did. She saved what money she could for tuition. What King does brilliantly here is he makes you side with Dolores. She’s a murderer and she is telling the reader this from the start yet you sympathize with her.
This book was depressing to say the least, even the name “Dolores” means pain in Spanish. This is the first book I finished while in quarantine at home and once I got into the groove of relaxing a little and being able to read again, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I enjoyed the way King pulled me into the story as everything unfolded. He saves a plot twist that I did not see coming for the end.
Dolores Claiborne was a dark and gritty read about a woman whose circumstances led her to take some desperate measures and how in the end she regretted none of it. I need to re-watch the film version.
“Sometimes you have to be a high-riding bitch to survive,” she says. “Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.”
p.169, Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
“Hope’s a powerful force in human nature, you know-no one knows that better’n me.”
p.170, Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
about the author:
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.
King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King’s books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald’s Game and It.
King was the recipient of America’s prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine. – quoted from Amazon.com
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 Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King. The book photo here is my own.