Friday, April 22, 2011

The Gingerbread Girl by Stephen King

*1/2(out of four stars)

After the sudden death (crib death) of her two month old baby, Emily takes up running. It's therapeutic and helps her mend the wounds of losing her child. Meanwhile, her marriage with Henry is failing quickly and she begins running from that as well. Soon, she's running from just about everything. She contacts her father and asks if she can reside at his vacation home on the Florida Keys. She needs some time to re-evaluate her life, marriage and well being.

While at the Florida Keys, she continues to run. The only contact she has is with an old man named, Deke Hollis. Deke tells her about a man named Jim Pickering. Deke finds it odd that Pickering always brings a girl with him to the keys. Pickering calls these girls his nieces. Deke also tells Emily that most of the young women are never seen again.

Soon Emily runs into trouble. On one of her runs she passes Pickering's house. She notices a young women in Pickering's trunk; stabbed to death. Pickering sneaks up behind her and knocks her out. When she awakes he has her in his house. She's tied to a chair with duct tape. He plans on killing her but hesitates. He asks her if anyone knew she was there and she tells him the old man. He leaves the house, supposedly to kill Deke.

When he returns, Emily frees herself. She wounds Jim Pickering and runs out of the house. Pickering begins to follow her but just doesn't have the stamina or speed to keep up. As Emily runs along the beach, trying to escape her assailant, she's surprised to see a latino male in the ocean. The latino tries to help her, but is out witted by Jim Pickering. Pickering kills the man with scissors. Emily swims out in the ocean and Pickering follows her. Pickering can't swim and ultimately drowns in the ocean.

By the end of the story, Emily still contemplates her future with Henry and her life.

I really wanted to like the character of Emily. I felt sympathetic because of the loss of her child, but that just wasn't enough. The baby succumbed to crib death. It wasn't her fault.  It wasn't Henry's fault either.  But she still runs out on her marriage. I wasn't sure what she had planned for the rest of her life. She was just running... literally! I usually love the way King writes his characters. Most of the time they're genuine and feel natural. Emily was just an unlikable character too me. In my opinion, she's one of the weaker characters King has penned.

The killer (Jim Pickering) is a total buffoon. For a guy who's killed on numerous occasions, his strategy was weak. The guy didn't muster an ounce of fear from me. At no point was this character threatening. Somehow, you knew Emily would prevail. I really wanted closure with her story, but there was none. She began running and I assume she'll continue to run. The story is predictable and lacks real suspense.

If you're a die hard Stephen King fan, give this short novella a read. However, you'll find better stories by him. This story just felt flat throughout. Generic story, with no redeeming qualities.

Reading info: This story was first published in the July edition of Esquire back in June of 2007. It's also an installment in a collection of King's short stories called, Just After Sunset. And finally, an audio edition was made by Simon and Schuster in 2008. The story is read by Mare Winningham. This is the version I've used to take in this story.

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