, King spent the majority of the novel keeping two people trapped in a car, stalked by a rabid dog. In Misery
, a man was kept hostage by an insane fan. Each of these novels centered chiefly on two main characters. Suppose, then, King decided to write a novel with only one character. Gerald's Game
Unfortunately, the novel comes from two distinct directions: the story angle and the message angle. The story is one of King's most compelling: Jessie Burlingame's husband Gerald enjoys kinky sex games with his wife. Actually, he probably depends on them. When the Burlingames try out their handcuff game down in the house by deserted Kashwakamack Lake, Jessie decides she's had enough. She experiances a flash from her childhood (another game she didn't like), and kicks out, rebelling both against her husband and her past. Gerald suffers a fatal heart attack, falling to the floor. And Jessie is still handcuffed to the bed.
This is really interesting stuff, the setup for a nerve-jangling novel. And on some points, King delivers. Jessie's battle to get a waterglass and actually drink from it is an unlikely, yet stunning, source of excitement and tension. Women she has known in her life become her "voices," sides of her personality she assigns personification. The interplay of the voices is great, too, if a little one- dimensional. And there are the flashbacks: Jessie, you see, once spent another afternoon on a deserted lake with a man. But she was ten, and the man was her father, and he played a game with her then, too. This memory is the core of the novel, and it's a disturbing and frightening core. It actually might go a long way to explaining why Jessie let herself be used by Gerald.
But then there is the message. All men are bad. The trouble with Gerald's Game is its insistance on this message, over and over. What King perhaps didn't realize is the way to combat one form of sexism isn't with another form. Jessie breaks free from the handcuffs (a harrowing and gore-strewn adventure), but she doesn't really escape. Jessie decides that all her solutions come from hate and distrust of men, just as she once belived that all her problems could be resolved by repression. In life, there are no blanket answers, and though the story here is exciting, the message needs some work.