In Joyland, a narrator in his 60s tells about the year he turned twenty-one. It's a bitter-sweet story of innocence and experience made bearable by the knowledge that the young man obviously survived it all since he lived to tell the tale. It's full of the aches that come from foolish decisions and opportunities missed. As a guy in his 60s, I can relate.
It's tempting to think the narrator is Stephen King himself, especially when he reflects on his present circumstances, saying, "I make a pretty good living as a writer." That one made me laugh. But this is not a memoir. That becomes clear when the narrator clarifies that he is editor of an in-flight magazine.
Along with the ode to youth, there's a good murder mystery thrown in. Contrary to conventional wisdom it takes the main character a while to get around to asking whodunnit? He has other business to attend to first.
I didn't mind the delayed attention to solving the crime mostly because the genuine feel of a man telling his story was so engaging. In his book, On Writing, King stresses writing honestly about the world as you see it.
That narrator's voice makes Joyland a worthy reply to a line from a song that was popular in my youth. In "What Have They Done to My Song," the artist known as Melanie said, "Wish I could find a good book to live in." I kept coming back to Joyland, not for the suspense, but because it was a good place to live for a few days.