by Stephen King
Dr. Louis Creed has just relocated his family—wife Rachel, young daughter Ellie, and 2 year-old son Gage—to Ludlow, Maine for his new job as head of health services for the State University. It’s quite a change from the big city living of Chicago, but they adjust easily enough and Louis befriends the elderly Jud Crandall who lives next door. Jud quickly becomes a father figure to Louis and warns him of the high traffic road that they live along, constantly traveled by large chemical trucks. He also introduces the family to the Pet Sematary in the woods beyond their backyard, the archaic sign misspelled in children’s script.
Soon, school begins and Louis starts his new job. He loses his first critical patient, a jogger who had been run down by a car, and before you can say Jim Morrison’s Indian Guide, the young man’s spirit visits Louis to warn him about the Pet Sematary and its horrible power. No sooner than Louis has convinced himself that the visitation was just a dream, Church—Ellie’s pet cat—is run down in the road. At Jud’s advice, rather than telling his family what happened, Louis buries the cat in the Pet Sematary. The next day, Church is back—alive or undead, it’s hard to tell, but he’s definitely changed. No longer quick and graceful but slow, lumbering and markedly unfriendly.
Tragedy strikes again, and this time it’s Gage under the wheels of the chemical truck. Just like in the tale of The Monkey’s Paw, Louis wishes his son back to life, but unlike that old fable, there’s nobody around to wish him away again just before the door is flung open.
By far King’s bleakest book—even more so than anything written under his pseudonym Richard Bachman—Pet Sematary was originally seen as too disturbing for publication by both King and his wife Tabitha. So it sat in limbo until unburied in 1983, much to the glee of fans hungry to read the “story so horrifying that he was for a time unwilling to finish it.”
It’s a solid if somewhat disturbing read—although many, if not all, of his books have had death in them, never before and never since has any one been so much about death—and when you reach the conclusion, you inevitably think to yourself, “There’s no other way it could have ended” and get up to grab something to drink, anything to wash away that sour taste left over in your mouth.
There’s no happy ending here.