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Bag of Bones Summary
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Bag of Bones by Stephen King.
Bag of Bones is a 1998 fantasy novel by American author Stephen King. Set in the fictional unincorporated town of TR-90, Maine, it follows an author, Mike Noonan, who suffers from writer’s block. Having isolated himself at his lake house to write, Noonan begins to experience delusions linked to the untimely death of his wife four years earlier. The plot borrows some of its tensions, events, and characterizations from Rebecca, a Gothic novel by English author Daphne du Maurier. Though not his most famous work, Bag of Bones is considered one of King’s best written and has been the recipient of many awards, including the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Bram Stoker Award.
The novel begins in the midst of Mike Noonan’s writer’s block. Ever since his wife, Jo, died during pregnancy from a sudden aneurysm, Noonan has struggled to socialize and to work. He moves permanently to his vacation home, Sara Laughs, at Dark Score Lake, hoping that a change of environment will dislodge his block. One day while out in the town, Noonan meets a young mother, Mattie Devore, and her little girl, Kyra. He learns that Mattie’s husband has died and that Kyra’s wealthy grandfather-in-law, Max Devore, is vying to gain custody. Noonan sympathizes with Mattie and Kyra’s predicament and decides to help get them a custody lawyer, John Storrow.
As Mattie and Kyra’s custody situation begins to look more promising, Noonan finds that he is able to write again. He is visited by the ghost of Jo, who helps him solve the mystery of the death of Sara Tidwell, a blues singer who once lived in the house. He discovers that Jo had often visited Sara Laughs alone the year before she died. Noonan also begins experiencing visions and dreams that link him to Kyra. One day, Max and his assistant, Rogette, attempt to drown Noonan. Jo’s spirit helps save him from dying. That night, Max inexplicably kills himself. Noonan begins to notice that virtually all of the locals have names that begin with the letters “C” or “K,” and learns that many children in the town have drowned throughout the past decades.
Storrow, with the help of a private detective, wins the custody battle for Kyra and Mattie. The group celebrates in Mattie’s trailer home. Mattie flirts with Noonan; the moment they finally embrace, her trailer is hit by a drive-by shooting. Mattie dies, but Noonan, Storrow, and the detective survive. The detective kills the driver, stopping their getaway, and Storrow helps him apprehend the shooter. Noonan rushes Kyra to safety at his home; when their remaining attackers realize he is going to Sara Laughs, they mysteriously turn around. Sara’s ghost manifests, nearly compelling Noonan to drown Kyra and kill himself. Jo’s spirit stops him and directs him to his novel manuscript, where he discovers clues leading to documents Jo hid while still alive. The documents include a genealogy diagram linking Noonan to one of the families in town.
Noonan also discovers that in several of the town’s families, every firstborn child whose name started with “K” was murdered. Max Devore’s family is one of them, signaling that Kyra is slated to be the next to die. The genealogy chart shows that Noonan’s child would have also qualified. Noonan deduces that Sara Tidwell placed a curse on the town’s families after suffering great pain. He looks for her grave, but the ghosts of several men try to stop him. Through a vision, he discovers that the men had raped and murdered Sara, then drowned her firstborn son, Kito. Noonan makes it to Sara’s grave and destroys her bones, thereby ending Sara’s curse.
Noonan returns to Sara Laughs and finds that Rogette has abducted Kyra. He pursues Rogette to the lake. Mattie’s spirit appears and pushes Rogette into the lake. Rogette tries to drag Noonan in with her but is killed by a part of the destroyed dock. Mattie’s spirit bids farewell to Kyra and Noonan. The novel’s epilogue relates that Noonan has stopped writing and is in the process of adopting Kyra. Because he would be a single father, the outcome of the process is uncertain. Nevertheless, Noonan hopes to be able to care for Kyra. Bag of Bones ends with the resolution of its central curse, and the hope that its would-be victims will enjoy lives free from the terror it inflicted.