Thinner

by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)

The fear I’m sure he expects. The anger… that may be a surprise.

Billy, a significantly overweight lawyer, is driving while his wife spontaneously pleasures him. An old Gypsy woman steps into the street directly in front of the car and is killed, but since Billy is an upstanding citizen and nobody likes the roaming Gypsies, Billy goes through the legal proceedings without so much as a tongue-lashing and is back home as if nothing happened.

An old Gypsy man, the leader of the troupe who’d just lost one of its own, takes exception to the miscarriage of justice and approaches Billy with a caress of the face and a single word, ‘thinner.’

Billy begins dropping weight uncontrollably, mystifying doctors. As his weight drops dangerously low and medical science makes no progress, Billy sets out to find the Gypsy who laid the curse on him and the other townsfolk involved in the cover-up.

It’s a deliciously dark story. No one is innocent, but blame is passed around as if everything’s the fault of the other guy. There is a fantastic passage deep into the novel, too long to list as a quote, dealing with the cycle of revenge for revenge for revenge, shining a light on a problematic human issue that’s extremely difficult to stop once started.

Thinner, being a Richard Bachman book largely overshadowed by King’s other works, asks remarkably astute questions about our nature. And before it all goes to hell, it answers a few of them, too.

Sure, we need the Gypsies. We always have. Because if you don’t have someone to run out of town once in a while, how are you going to know you yourself belong there?

4+ stars

 

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