Christine

by Stephen King

If being a kid is about learning how to live, then being a grown-up is about learning how to die.

Young Arnold Cunningham is riding shotgun with his buddy Dennis when they pass a rotting heap of a Plymouth Fury junked on the side of the road, displaying a reluctant For Sale sign. Arnie is instantly smitten and buys the car, costs be damned, and begins an impossible restoration process. He can taste potential freedom for the first time in his familial-dominated life and pours his heart and soul into the idea of Christine, his new love, setting him free.

His parents cannot stand the car or how it represents Arnie pulling away from them. His one friend and his eventual girlfriend see a dangerously close relationship developing between Arnie and his car and begin speaking out against Christine. This serves to strengthen the bizarre relationship, and Christine’s malevolent spirit begins challenging Arnie’s enemies and those rivaling for his affection as people around him present their ultimatums. And it gets ugly.

The book is eerie in its ability to summon up sentiment from our teens. A big part of us is in there with Arnie, desperate. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand a situation where parents seem to care only about what they care about, not so much what their children care about, because if parents in their wisdom don’t already care about something or disagree with it then that something must be no good—get rid of it.

So how about you parents out there? Have you created any Arnold Cunninghams, pushed them into corners? Because Christine only gained her real power over Arnie when he had nowhere else to turn, when he had her or had nothing, at least in his mind.

Yes, this is the horrific story of evil manifested and attached to a car, as everyone knows, but it didn’t have to go down this way. Because more than the story of the murderous spirit in Christine this is the story of the importance of listening to those we care about instead of just pretending to listen, for those times when real guidance or empathy is necessary. And what can go wrong when we’ve misjudged. God help the parents. And God help the kids when the parents are mistaken.

The terrible feeling, the terrible image persisted: that the first time he had talked to Arnie Cunningham, he had been talking to a drowning man, and the second time he had talked to him, the drowning had happened—and he was talking to a corpse.

4+ stars

 

 

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