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Book Review: Holly by Stephen King


Editorial note: I received a copy of Holly by Stephen King in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Imagine if you had a friend who, after having a baby, tried to conquer their fears by watching scary movies with wide-open eyes.

Well, reading “Holly” is a bit like that—a rollercoaster ride of thrills that might just toughen you up for the scarier parts of everyday life. ✨

Holly by Stephen King

Main character

Meet Holly Gibney, a private investigator whose life takes a wild turn when she’s drawn into a case about a missing girl. This story isn’t your typical detective drama; it’s more like a vivid, colorful tale with twists and turns that rival the classics. Think of it as Dickens with a modern twist.

Holly herself is a character you’ll connect with. She once dreamed of being a poet and has a soft spot for mai tais because they remind her of beautiful beaches. She quotes movie lines to herself and carries an empty cough drop tin as an ashtray because she’s the kind of person who doesn’t want to litter, even with cigarette butts. Holly is genuine, and when she’s on the page, it feels like she’s the one calling the shots.

She first appeared in King’s “Mr. Mercedes” series but quickly became a central figure in “Holly.” Her character adds depth to the story’s darkness, which is definitely there in abundance.

The plot

In 2012, Jorge Castro, a creative writing teacher, encounters professors Emily and Rodney Harris on a misty evening. Little does he know that this chance encounter will plunge him into a nightmarish ordeal, leaving him confined to a cage in their basement. The story’s tension builds as we wonder about the Harris’s sinister intentions.

The tale unfolds in a grim setting: a desolate place called Red Bank Avenue, where a young woman has gone missing. Nearby, you’ll find Emily and Rodney Harris, retired professors who live in grand Victorian houses. These two seem respectable, but they have a terrifying secret hiding in their basement. It’s here that the story takes a dark twist and reflects the eerie reality of a society on the brink.

The book has its share of grim moments, but most of the deaths aren’t caused by villains—they’re from COVID-19. The story kicks off in July 2021, with hospitals overflowing and temporary morgues springing up. It’s a stark reminder of the pandemic’s impact, especially when Holly’s own mother falls victim to the virus due to her anti-mask beliefs.

Important themes

King doesn’t shy away from tackling tough issues like the Capitol riot, and he takes a unique approach to storytelling by revealing the culprits early on. It’s like he’s saying, “Buckle up; you’re in for a ride.” And believe me, you are!

Characters bump elbows in greeting, and discussions revolve around vaccine brands. Holly’s mother, an anti-vaxxer, tragically succumbs to the virus, highlighting the gravity of the pandemic. The isolation and peril of the pandemic are palpable, adding a layer of sorrow to the narrative.

Amidst the darkness, “Holly” delves into themes of familial love and the inevitable decline of the human body. Holly’s reflections on her mother’s teachings provide poignant moments of introspection. The story also explores the parasitic nature of academia, offering a sly commentary on the industry.

But what makes King’s work truly terrifying isn’t the cruelty he inflicts on his characters; it’s his kindness in portraying their inner thoughts. Beneath their fears and plans, you can feel the goodness in them, which makes the violence even more unsettling.

Final thoughts

As you delve into “Holly,” you’ll find yourself pondering some deep questions.

Does confronting evil make us stronger or just sadder? It seems the answer lies somewhere in between, much like Holly herself, who can’t resist answering the call to confront darkness.

So, be prepared for a thrilling journey that’ll keep you up at night and leave you contemplating the resilience of the human spirit in the face of evil.

P.S. If you’re looking for book club discussion questions for Holly, click here! ❤️