Book Club Selection for May 2020- The Institute
by Stephen King
In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”
In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.
“A big shank of a book that reminded me instantly of many of the reasons I loved (love?) [King]. His characters are the kind of people who hear the trains in the night. The music is always good. He swings low to the ground. He gets closer to the realities and attitudes of working-class life in America than any living writer I can think of.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"Throughout his long career, King has been committed to the bedrock notion that stories matter, that they help us understand both ourselves and the world we inhabit. The Institute, filled as it is with anger, sorrow, empathy and, yes, hope, reiterates that commitment with undiminished power. It is a first-rate entertainment that has something important to say. We all need to listen.”
—William Sheehan, The Washington Post
“As consummately honed and enthralling as the very best of [King’s] work...How do you maintain your dignity and humanity in an environment designed to strip you of both? That theme, such an urgent one in literature from the 20th century onward, falls well within King’s usual purview...Of all the cosmic menaces that King’s heroes have battled, [the] slow creep into inhumanity may be the most terrifying yet, because it is all too real.”
—Laura Miller, The New York Times Book Review
“The Institute is another winner: creepy and touching and horrifyingly believable, all at once.”
—The Boston Globe
“This is King at his best.”
—The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Gripping… This is a thriller — and a good one, at that. There’s little in the way of King’s usual emphasis on the occult beyond the topic of psychic powers, which, according to surveys, as many as 40% of Americans believe are real. But there’s no shortage of monsters, that’s for sure. They just come in the coldblooded, end-justifies-the-means, laws-don’t-apply-to-us human variety. We have no trouble believing that those types of people are real. And they are plenty scary.”
—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Fans will draw parallels between Luke’s tight band of friends and the kids at the center of It, in which the Losers Club faces off against a murderous clown, but this is an entirely original story that can only come from the mind of a master teller like King.”
—The Florida Times Union
About the Author:
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.
King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King's books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald's Game and It.
King was the recipient of America's prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine.
CG Book Club Review:
The Institute- Review
I just finished this month's book, "The Institute." This book is everything that I should not like in a book. It is written by Stephen King. This author raises certain images when you are looking for a new Stephen King book. But King also has a rich ability to surprise you. You may not know that King wrote such books as "Stand by Me" a coming of age story, "Shawshank Redemption" and the "Green Mile."
King's books are dense. He is known for his ability of description. When you read one of his books you think you are actually there. You can see it clearly.
This brings us to "The Institute." How would I describe this book? I would say that it is one part "It", one part "Stranger Things" and one part the mystic thing that makes King a great writer. This is less horror and more suspense, with some really bad things happening at times.
The beginning of the book we meet Tim Jameson. He is a wanderer. We meet him and we like him. Then we are suddenly witnessing the kidnapping of Luke Ellis, 11 and just like Luke we are suddenly transported to the Institute.
There the story is dark. For me a measure of a good suspenseful book is whether it gets me so worked up that I have to take a break from reading it. I can recall several books where they got me so wound up that I had to put them down for a time. Usually the book turns for the better when I start again. I think I get worried that the book will not make the right choice of directions to go and I would not finish if the book chose wrong. I guess this means that I am invested in the book.
The Institute got me to that point. I had to take a break. But then I could not sleep because I was worried about the kids I had met while reading the book. So I had to return to find out if I was going to curse Stephein King or praise him.
After finishing the book, I have almost all praise. The ending was not a disappointment as some reviews have suggested or even a let down. I think it went too long. It is a story that had so many details, that it became difficult to tie them up at the end and the resolution turned into several mini resolutions.
Overall, this was a wild ride of a book. There is a lot of suspense that may give you nightmares until you are assured of getting to the end. Take the ride. It is worth it.
Ken W. Good