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Table of Contents
About The Book
A #1 New York Times Bestseller and New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice!
Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours.
Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. When Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.
Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.
Magnificent, terrifying, and “spellbinding…packed with glorious flights of imagination and characteristic tenderness about childhood, Fairy Tale is vintage King at his finest” (Esquire).
“Good, evil, a kingdom to save, monsters to slay—these are the stuff that page-turners are made from.” —Laura Miller, Slate
Reading Group Guide
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Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. When Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it. King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy—and his dog—must lead the battle.
Early in the pandemic, King asked himself: “What could you write that would make you happy?
“As if my imagination had been waiting for the question to be asked, I saw a vast deserted city—deserted but alive. I saw the empty streets, the haunted buildings, a gargoyle head lying overturned in the street. I saw smashed statues (of what I didn’t know, but I eventually found out). I saw a huge, sprawling palace with glass towers so high their tips pierced the clouds. Those images released the story I wanted to tell.”
Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. What do you think of King’s decision to begin the opening of this book with the death of Charlie mother on the “goddamn bridge” and his father’s battle with alcoholism? How does this influence Charlie’s childhood and teenage years?
2. What do you think about Charlie’s voice and retrospective point of view? Some of his lingo and phrases speak to older generations, ones that a teenager from the 2010s wouldn’t necessarily say. How does this characterization later play out in the novel and what effect does it have for you as a reader?
3. Charlie’s dad suffered from alcoholism and recovered through Charlie’s help, AA, and a supportive network of friends. How does Charlie’s relationship and healing with his father counter with his relationship with Mr. Bowditch?
4. Describe Charlie’s relationship with Mr. Bowditch. Besides being at the right place and time to save him after his fall, why does Charlie stick around to be with Mr. Bowditch and Radar? How does Charlie’s family history play a role in his decision to be their caretaker?
5. Radar is first described as a mean, frightening dog by Charlie’s friend Andy Chen. Yet, when Charlie meets him, he’s a much more subdued and trusting dog in old age. Why is that and how does Radar help Charlie’s quest into Empis?
6. Mr. Bowditch says to Charlie, “A brave man helps. A coward just gives presents” (page 43). What does this mean to you and why is this quote frequently referenced in the novel?
7. Who is the “ha-ha” man whom Charlie calls Rumpelstiltskin, what is he after, and why is Charlie suspicious of him? What theme or symbol does he represent in the greater story?
8. The first half of the story sets up Charlie’s family, Mr. Bowditch and his injury, Radar, and the gold in Mr. Bowditch’s safe (among other events) before we enter Empis. Why does the author take longer to set up Charlie’s normal world instead of entering straight into the magical one? In your opinion, does this setup help or hinder the story?
9. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is referenced when Charlie is researching this other world. Read Bradbury’s classic. How does Fairy Tale pay homage to Bradbury’s novel?
10. Charlie travels to Empis to journey to the magical city and use the sundial’s life-altering effects to save Radar. Why does he take that risk, knowing Mr. Bowditch’s history, the dangers within this world, and after meeting its people?
11. Portals into secondary worlds play a key role throughout the novel. Mr. Bowditch did his utmost to keep the well away from the eyes of people who could exploit this other world. Compare the deep well and cavern into Empis with other portal fantasies. How does the author expand the portal fantasy genre, and how is this book similar? What are you hoping to see more of in this fantasy genre?
12. By the end of the novel, how has Charlie grown as a person? Why does he feel the need to tell this story to the reader, and how does he use his experience to grow personally and professionally?
13. In writing Fairy Tale, Stephen King asked himself a question: “What could you write that would make you happy?” What are some of the happiest and most fun moments in this story? What exciting elements or tropes of fantasy and fairy tale are you most drawn to?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Think back to King’s previous books starring children and teenagers in the primary roles: Stand by Me, The Institute, It, and others. How does Charlie differ from King’s previous children and teenage lead characters and how is he similar?
2. Read The Gunslinger, the first book in King’s Dark Tower series. Discuss the world-building parallels between both books.
3. Think about the fairy tales in your life growing up and choose one or two characters from that work (or different works) and put them in the world of Stephen King’s Fairy Tale. How would they help or hinder Charlie’s journey to reach the sundial and save Empis.
About The Readers
Seth Numrich won the Evening Standard Award for Outstanding Newcomer for Sweet Bird of Youth at The Old Vic. Additional Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include: The Merchant of Venice (Broadhurst Theatre), War Horse (Vivian Beaumont), Golden Boy (Lincoln Center), Travesties (American Airlines), Orpheus Descending (Theatr Clwyd), and Fathers and Sons (Donmar Warehouse). Numrich starred in four seasons of the AMC drama Turn: Washington’s Spies and appeared opposite Daniel Radcliffe in the film Imperium.
Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Holly, Fairy Tale, Billy Summers, If It Bleeds, The Institute, Elevation, The Outsider, Sleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), and the Bill Hodges trilogy: End of Watch, Finders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and a television series streaming on Peacock). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower, It, Pet Sematary, Doctor Sleep, and Firestarter are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest-grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2020 Audio Publishers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (September 6, 2022)
- Length: 20 disks
- Runtime: 24 hours and 4 minutes
- ISBN13: 9781797145280
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Raves and Reviews
"Seth Numrich’s narration of 17-year-old Charlie Reade’s story is moving and frightening in equal measure. Charlie befriends a reclusive curmudgeon, Howard Bowditch, and his aging dog, and inherits Howard’s house and dog when he dies. Howard also leaves Charlie a cassette recording — voiced remarkably by Stephen King. On it, Howard recounts a story within the story, involving a locked shed, a portal to a dying world, and Charlie’s part in a plan for salvation. Numrich creates a distinctive voice for each character, complete with growls and guttural snarls for evildoers. He even makes a hum sound threatening. Listeners will be drawn into this audiobook by the intimate tone of Numrich’s narration, which is like hearing Charlie himself."
– Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award, AudioFile Magazine
"High-schooler Charlie Reade, son of a widowed recovering alcoholic, is walking by the town’s rundown “psycho house" when he hears a distressed barking. Entering the backyard, Charlie finds the house's owner, Mr. Bowditch, laying on the ground—with a broken leg—guarded by his faithful old dog, Radar. Charlie becomes caretaker for Mr. Bowditch and forms a strong bond with ailing Radar. Soon Charlie finds a mysterious shed in the backyard that serves an entrance to a different world where it may be possible to reverse the dog's aging. Numrich’s narration of Charlie’s quest is everything a reader appreciates. He uses unique voices for all of the characters, both human and inhuman, drawing readers completely into the parallel universe, and sounds convincing as a teenager. The narration undoubtedly drives the story and will keep listeners entranced. This gateway fantasy is ideal for anyone looking for a world-building journey similar to Frodo’s quest in The Hobbit. Charlie is highly likable and his devotion to Radar only adds to the appeal. Fans of all things Stephen King may also enjoy the parallels between his narration of Bowditch’s recorded messages to Charlie and his cameos in the film adaptations of his novels."
– Suzanne Temple, Booklist (Starred Review)
Resources and Downloads
High Resolution Images
- Book Cover Image (jpg): Fairy Tale Unabridged Compact Disk 9781797145280
- Author Photo (jpg): Stephen King © Shane Leonard(0.1 MB)
Any use of an author photo must include its respective photo credit
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