So do we pass the ghosts who haunt us later in our lives; they sit undramatically on the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes, if we see them at all. The idea that they have been waiting there for us rarely if ever crosses our minds. Yet they do wait, and when we have passed, they gather up their bundles of memory and fall in behind, treading in our footsteps and catching up, little by little.
(for this book “review”—it’s not really a review—to make as much sense as possible, you’d have to also read the “review” I wrote for the first three books in the series, which you can find HERE . This is less a review than a piece about my reaction and connection to the series, how it is influenced by my dad, by my reading history, by who I was and who I am now. No real spoilers but if you’ve read the books you will understand more of what I write.)
Wizard and Glass (the fourth book in The Dark Tower series) is a book that’s hard to categorize. Is it a retold fairytale? Yes! Is it a western? Well, there are horses running across long, grassy ridges, and desert landscapes, and shoot-outs, so, sort of. Is it horror? There’s a terrifying witch, so, partly. Is it fantasy? Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz come into the story, so, yes, there are definitely fantasy aspects.
I haven’t finished the entire series yet, as of this writing (although I am very close!), but I think this book might be my favorite. It completes the cliff-hanger of an ending from The Wastelands and carries us forward into Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy’s travels, but it is mostly looking backward: it is mostly the story of Roland’s coming-of-age experiences. (Historical fiction about a fictional character in a place that seems like it could be a historical, if fictional, place in the United States?) After besting Cort and becoming a true gunslinger, Roland is sent, with two other friends, to investigate the workings of the Good Man in the far edges of the community (also to get him out of sight of the court wizard Marlen). Here, he discovers a town that is being corrupted by outside forces that might threaten to destroy the world. He also meets, and falls in love with, a local girl named Susan Delgado. His primary task is to figure out what is truly happening in Mejis, but of course this is complicated by the love story.
I loved this book. It plays with many elements of literary tropes, so it feels both familiar and unsettling, all at once. Plus, the rest of the series feels like it focuses more on the male characters, Susannah notwithstanding, but this feels like Susan’s story most of all (although she is not the only character we experience the story through). As the story progressed, I knew where it was headed—once you know enough of women’s tales, it is not hard to guess what will happen to Susan, even if you are hoping it doesn’t. In fact, I set the book aside for at least two weeks because I wasn’t ready for what would happen. When I took it back up again, I read it without stopping, lying on the couch in my front room on a rainy Sunday, because I might not be strong enough to pick it up again.
This was the last book in the series with a physical copy that my dad might’ve read. (Also the last one that wasn’t a reprint and that included the original color illustrations.) I had it in the cupboard under the bookshelf in my bedroom with the other three books he and I both read, but I honestly don’t remember if I bought it or if I just found it at his house and brought it home. Maybe he even read it first and then passed it along to me. I wish I remembered for sure. I can say that this book felt the least Don-Allman-ish book of the series. (As I’m now reading the last one, I can say that for certainty, but even while I was reading it I felt that way: I’m not sure Dad would’ve loved this as much as I am.)
But it was a fairly Amy-ish book. It does a good job at recreating how intense first love is, how it makes the roots of your teeth burn and strips logic and care away, and how it is made to be a thing that will be destroyed. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a feminist work—not at all, in fact, but it peeks just a little bit, side-eyed, at those tropes. More than anything, though, it made me think (again…and perhaps that is what I need to take from these books at this time) of how choice influences life, and what might life might be like if I had made different choices. Also of how some stories circle around your life, long after the events have passed, and how they continue to impact the way you make your choices. How memory haunts you, I suppose. And how the telling of the stories also is important, is almost a continuation of the experience itself.
Storytelling always changes time.