There’s a cheap rhetorical move you see a lot in religious debate, where the God-pusher retorts, “But don’t you ever doubt your doubt?” The hero of Revival, Stephen King’s 2014 novel of loss and obsession, could reply in tones of trembling horror: “All the time. God help me, I doubt my doubt all the time.”
King has always loved to wring horror from Americana: the bad hot dog, the classic car, the prom. In Revival he takes on the Methodist Youth Fellowship, where, back in the mid-’60s, little Jamie Morton first meets the Rev. Charles Jacobs. Jacobs is a young pastor, already a little mistrustful and untrustworthy—a little bit given to gimcrack, turning miracles into magic tricks. But he forges a deep and lasting bond with Jamie, his secret favorite. That bond will cast a shadow over the rest of Jamie’s life, through heroin addiction and miracle cures, carnival shows and guitar-heroics, and bring them both, at last, to the threshold between this world and the next.