Elevation by Stephen King
Nearly 35 years ago, Stephen King – writing under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman – published a novel called Thinner, in which an individual was put under a curse by a Gypsy elder when he accidentally ran over and killed the elder’s mother with his car. The consequence of the curse was that the protagonist rapidly kept on losing weight until he got thinner and thinner.
The rest of the story was taken up with him trying to find that Gypsy elder, so that he can break the curse before he gets even more thinner and prematurely wastes away.
In King’s latest novel (which is published as a novella) called Elevation, he takes that same main plot line (but without the Gypsy), but this time, puts more heart and a reaffirming approach to it.
The story takes place in the town of Castle Rock, Maine and its protagonist is resident Scott Carey. One day, he visits his friend – and town doctor – Bob Ellis to confide with him about a mysterious condition he has: Scott is rapidly losing weight, yet he is not getting visibly thinner.
Realizing he will one day get to the point where his weight will get to zero (which he declares as “Zero Day”), Scott decides to come to terms with a running feud he has with two of his newest neighbours, a Lesbian couple named Missy Donaldson and Deirdre McComb who run a vegetarian Mexican restaurant on the town’s main street called Holy Frijole, which is under the threat of closing its doors due to lack of business.
The feud is more intense between Scott and Deirdre, especially over the issue of the couple’s dogs always defecating on his lawn. However, during a tense conversation between the two, Scott makes a wager with Deirdre that will take place during the town’s annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot race, which he hopes will put an end to the feud once and for all. Reluctantly, Deirdre agrees to the wager, which she knows she will win owing to the fact that she is an experienced marathon racerunner, and Scott is nothing but an unhealthy, overweight person, who will certainly lose the race, let alone cross the finish line.
However, something mysterious, yet genuinely kindhearted, happens between the two towards the end of the race, which occurs during a driving rainstorm, that puts a positive change of heart between the two as a result, and contributes to Scott achieving a sense of personal elevation before he reaches that “Zero Day”, which is happening much quicker than he anticipates.
Elevation does have that potential to be the typical macabre horror story that has made Stephen King the master of horror fiction and a mega best selling author to boot. Instead, he decides to transform the story from a man with an unusual physical condition combined with a sense of revenge, to how he uses that condition to mend fences with a foe and create a more humane sense of common ground before he meets his last days on Earth, and gets much needed support from his former enemies-turned-close-friends so that he could meet that end in the literal blaze of glory that he wishes. It’s probably King’s most humanistic, life affirming book that shows the power of mending fences between different people, instead of burning bridges.