Length: 944 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Leland Gaunt – a stranger in Castle Rock and the owner of the new store, Needful Things – causes great curiosity amongst the people of the small town in the days leading up to the opening of his store. And painful satisfaction after. When you offer one’s deepest desires for sale, there’s something for everyone to buy. Especially when the price is so very low.
But the low price is only a part of the payment that needs to be made to Leland Gaunt. And the dealing is never done until Leland Gaunt says its done. A baseball card for young Brian Rusk, The King’s sunglasses for his mother, a fishing rod for the Deputy Sheriff and a cure for the chronic pain in her hands for Polly Chalmers – Needful Things has something for everyone and by the end of the week, Leland Gaunt has a captivated group of customers.
The only one unconvinced remains Sheriff Alan Panghorn, a man who has his own demons to deal with, a man who has sworn to uphold law and peace in his town, a man who Leland Gaunt intentionally avoids. But even the skeptical Sheriff could not predict nor guess who Gaunt really is, and what it is that he’s really selling. Until greed begins to possess the buyers who will do whatever it takes to hold on to their new purchases. As the Sheriff attempts to protect the town he serves and the woman he loves, greed gives way to insanity; and Gaunt becomes a foe unlike any he’d ever faced and one who could bring about his end. And Castle Rock finally begins to reveal more of its hidden secrets, secrets that could cost the town dearly.
Needful Things is a long read that spends most of its pages building up to a potentially thrilling climax. Unfortunately, the build up is a little too long and the conclusion, although interesting, seems like a bit of a let down due to said build up. Yet, the book manages to be interesting enough to keep you reading. What helps are the numerous points of view that the book follows as you learn about the feelings and lives of the many people of Castle Rock. While some may say that the many points of view and the sheer number of people that make their presence known in the book can make it a bit too confusing to follow, the chaos is somehow controlled just enough to give you a feel for what the town is going through.
The book also tends to escalate really high, really fast at random points in the book, sometimes making you cringe at the blatant insanity, and other times, making you wonder just what it is that makes people the crazy way they can be. That in fact, is the best part of the book – the craziness that forces you to look at people and their limits when it comes to their deepest desires more closely, and with a new perception altogether.
Other than the sudden changes in speed, of which there are only a few, the book moves along more or less steadily. You know something big is going to happen sometime, but you can’t say what it will be and the wait can get annoying. Also, you require the ability to simply accept things for what they are, much like with other books by Stephen King. Strange things happen; they’re not really meant to be explained or justified – they just are, because they can be, in Castle Rock. So, if those kinds of loose ends bother you, then maybe give Needful Things a pass.
If you are a mild Stephen King fan, Needful Things will be one of those books that you like, but that you wouldn’t have really regretted missing either. All in all, an interesting read that leaves little to desire in story and style, but quite a bit on length and transparency. Needful Things may be perfect when you have time to kill and no other favorite books or authors to read. But should you make great effort to find and read this entire book? Only if you’re a die-hard fan of Stephen King.