Insomnia by Stephen King

Close-up black-and-white drawing of Ralph Roberts' face
                      Ralph Roberts, insomniac as drawn by David Johnson

As he so often does, in Insomnia Stephen King takes some everyday experience and turns it into something extra-ordinary.

As the story opens, retiree Ralph Roberts hasn’t been sleeping well since his wife died. He walks around Derry, ME, talking with other old-timers and trying to get tired enough to sleep.

On one of those walks, he’s shocked to see Ed Deepneau almost come to blows with another driver over a minor collision that Ed caused. Ralph knows Ed as “one of the kindest, most civil young men” he’d ever met. Ralph and his late wife had been fond of Ed’s wife, Helen, and their baby, Natalie as well. In his waking hours—of which he has more every week—Ralph tries to puzzle out what’s wrong with Ed.

When Ralph sees Helen in the convenience story parking lot, beaten, bloodied, staggering, holding her screaming infant, and muttering, “Why didn’t he stop this time?” Ralph calls the Derry police.

creature that looks like a little bald doctor carrying big scissors
Those scissors look sinister.

The next 625 pages relate the horrific consequences of that call.

The supernatural elements of King’s story are less frightening than the human horrors. And issues King raises about human behavior and human responsibility still demand attention, regardless of whether you like King’s novel.

Insomnia by Stephen King
David Johnson, illustrator
Viking. ©1994. 787 p.
1994 bestseller #4; my grade: A-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Heartbeat by Danielle Steel

is figure two gold hearts intertwined or one gold heart broken
Two hearts or one, broken?

Heartbeat is a typical Danielle Steel story about a romance between two beautiful, personable, talented, wealthy-but-hardworking people in the California television industry.

The male half of the romance is Bill Thigpen, writer-producer of the hottest daytime soap opera and father to two boys who live in New York with his ex-wife and her new husband. Bill  grieves not being able to have his sons with him.

The female half of the romance is Adrian Townsend. Adrian is a production assistant for TV news show that’s headquartered in the same building as Bill’s soap opera.

Adrian has about as much common sense as a caterpillar. She has been married for nearly three years to a hard-driving ad agency executive who is a control freak, ruthless in his drive for money and power. Adrian always explains away Stephen’s behavior as a reaction to having grown up poor.

Before they married, Stephen made Adrian promise they’d never have children. When Adrian learns she’s pregnant, Stephen says either she gets rid of the fetus or she’s rid of him.

Adrian is surprised and shocked.

Anyone who has ever read a Danielle Steel novel knows what will happen.

The happy ending is totally predictable and totally absurd.

Heartbeat by Danielle Steel
Delacourt Press. ©1991. 392 p.
1991 bestseller #5; my grade: C-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Testimony of Two Men, one his own worst enemy

island is central image on dust jacket of "Testimony of Two Men"
Islands can be emotional as well as physical.

Taylor Caldwell begins Testimony of Two Men where more usual novels would have ended: Dr. Jonathan Ferrier has been acquitted of the murder-by-botched-abortion of his young wife, Mavis.

Unable to live among people who doubted his innocence, Jon has sold his practice to young Robert Morgan, who, of candidates Jon interviewed, seemed least likely to do harm.

Robert feels something akin to awe of Jon, for his culture as much as for his brilliant medical skill.

Jon finds Robert’s conventional, mamma’s boy behavior amusing.

Jon’s brother, Harald, made a marriage of convenience to a rich widow. She’s dead; Harald is living on an island with her nubile daughter, whom he wishes to marry.

When Robert sees Jenny, he’d like to marry her, too.

Jon thinks Jenny is a whore and Harald one of her sex partners.

Taylor Caldwell makes the novel part mystery, part romance, but always keeps her focus on the psychological development of her characters.

Jon’s insulting manner with people he thinks cruel, incompetent, or corrupt make him his own worst enemy.

Fortunately, he has some good friends who come to his rescue.

Caldwell wraps up the novel with enough of Jon’s hostility showing to prove she’s a good novelist.


Testimony of Two Men by Taylor Caldwell
Doubleday, 1968, Book Club Edition, 600 pp. My grade: A-.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni