Pet Sematary Summary

Stephen King

Pet Sematary

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Pet Sematary Summary

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Pet Sematary, by Stephen King, is a novel in the horror genre. This novel not only thrills by touching on fear, but also deals with the grief of losing a family member. The protagonist is named Louis Creed. Louis is just starting to hit his stride professionally; he is a doctor with a young family, and the Creeds have just recently moved into a new home located in Ludlow, Maine, brought there by Louis’s new job at the University of Maine. Louis’s wife is named Rachel, and together they have two children named Ellie and Gage.

Their new neighbor, Judson Crandall, lives across the street. Judson, or Jud, becomes an integral part of the story as he and Louis become friends. Due to their age difference, Jud also becomes a father figure to Louis. Jud is married to a woman named Norma, and both show the Creeds kindness, welcoming them to Ludlow. The Creeds’ new home is situated on a large plot of land; upon exploring the boundaries, they discover a pet cemetery. Because the unofficial groundskeepers of the cemetery are children, the sign at the entrance reads “Pet Sematary,” hence the misspelling of the word in the book’s title.

Louis is on his way to work for the first time when he witnesses a fatal car accident. A student named Victor Pascow dies, and that night, he visits Louis and issues a warning. He tells him not to go past the boundary that lies between the Pet Sematary and the woods beyond. This isn’t the only warning Louis receives. Jud informs him that sadly, many animals have been hit by trucks on the dangerous road between their two houses.

Rachel becomes frightened, recalling how, when she was a child, she witnessed her sister’s long and painful demise. A few days after receiving Jud’s warning, Ellie Creed’s cat, Church—short for Winston Churchill—goes into the road and is hit and killed. Louis finds out and doesn’t know how to tell Rachel or Ellie, who are away visiting Rachel’s parents. Louis has stayed home because he and Rachel’s parents don’t get along.

While they’re away, Jud tells Louis to bring Church’s corpse to the Pet Sematary. He leads Louis past the boundary and into the woods. They cross a swamp that the Micmac tribe called Little God Swamp, to an ancient burial ground. Jud tells Louis to bury the cat there. The next day, Church returns from the dead, but he’s not the same as he once was. He reeks and behaves strangely. However, when Rachel and the children return, they don’t seem to notice that something is off with Church.

Louis’s son Gage is hit by a truck on the same road that claimed Church’s life, and Louis tells Jud that he’s going to take Gage to the ancient burial ground. Jud pleads with him not to and tells him about another father whose son had died. The man buried his son there, and sure enough, the child returned… but he wasn’t the same. Instead, he was evil, and threatened Jud. The father had to kill his son, and then chose to take his own life. Hearing this story, Louis is horrified and promises not to try to bring Gage back by burying him there. Despite this, the magic of the burial ground calls to Louis.

By this point, though, there’s been a funeral for Gage, so Louis needs to exhume his body from his grave. He sends Rachel and Ellie away because he knows that they won’t approve, but Victor Pascow’s spirit visits Ellie, and gets her to convince her mother to go back home to stop her father. Rachel teams up with Jud, but they are not able to prevent Louis from burying Gage in the ancient burial ground. By the time Rachel reconnects with Louis, Gage has already returned from the dead.

Like Church, and the boy from Jud’s story, Gage is evil. He stabs Rachel to death. Louis uses morphine to kill evil Church and evil Gage. However, yet again, the evil of the ancient burial ground calls to Louis and he buries Rachel there. The novel ends with Louis awaiting her return.

The main theme of the novel is loss. The story includes the clinical stages of grief, woven into the tapestry of the prose. King has been lauded for his accuracy in this depiction. Other themes include secrets and judgment. Louis, and through him, King, wonders how many people are carrying secrets with them, as the web of his lies about the Pet Sematary expands. Because the main grief is centered around Louis mourning Gage, the novel also depicts the judgment a parent undergoes and fears when losing a child.

Pet Sematary was reluctantly published by King in 1983, and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1986. Three years later, the book was adapted into a film. In 2010, a remake was announced.