King Book Club book #3 is Cujo, published in 1981 and released as a movie in 1983. The book is light years better and scarier than the movie, although the movie is decently scary in its own right.
I first read this book when I was around 15 or so, and the not again until I did so for this club. I absolutely am in love with how King personifies Cujo and his thoughts.
SPOILERS AHEAD, TREAD WITH CAUTION OR CUJO WILL GET YOU
Poor Cujo, he’s a big Saint Bernard belonging to the Camber family, is in love with “His Boy” Brett, and just wants to be a Good Boy. He chases a rabbit, and gets bit by a rabid bat. He then slowly goes down the hole to rabid dog, and the story moves along in his head a lot of the time.
Elsewhere, in a boring part of the story for me, Donna has cheated on her husband who finds out and goes away for a business trip. She takes the family car, along with her just older than toddler son Tad, to the Camber house to get Joe to work on it as he is the town mechanic. The car breaks down in the Camber’s driveway, and she is stuck there by a rampaging Cujo.
Unknown to Donna, Cujo has already killed Joe and his friend Gary. The poor dog thinks the humans are to blame for the disease eating his brain and he is certain that after he kills them, it will leave him alone. He relentlessly attacks Donna and Tad in their tiny car. Both mother and son are roasting in the heat and Donna is trying her best to keep Tad alive during the siege.
“He was a Good Dog and wouldn’t ever hurt His Boy”
She considers running for the house to try the phone, but is afraid the door will be locked and the dog will get her and Tad will be left helpless. She also is waiting on the mailman, but is unaware that Joe has cancelled service for a few days since the entire family was due to be out of town on various trips. Nothing works in Donna’s favor during her ordeal. Cujo outsmarts her several times, and thwarts every chance she thinks she has to escape or get help.
Meanwhile, her husband is trying to convince the police that his wife and son are missing and is imploring them to check everywhere. The police believe she may have ran off with her lover, who has wrecked her bedroom and is nowhere to be found. Finally, the town sheriff, Big George Bannerman, heads out to the Camber house, positive that he will find nothing and that he is on a goose chase.
When Bannerman gets to the Cambers, he spots the tiny Datsun, now battered and bloody from Cujo attacking it. George approaches the car, sees Donna and Tad inside trying to sleep and fails to see Cujo in time to avoid being gutted by the huge dog. Donna sees Cujo destroy the big sheriff, and decides enough is enough. She then battles Cujo, and manages to kill him finally moments before her husband and state police arrive to find the carnage. The joyous scene of rescue and no more rabid dog is cut short when the parents realize Tad has died of dehydration, more than likely during his mothers final desperate battle with the dog.
The book ends with a poignant sort of closure, the rabbit Cujo chased at the end was stuck in a bat cave and slowly died of starvation, alone and scared.
The movie is weakened by the Hollywood ending that keeps Tad alive, and as such, is lesser ranked than the book.
I give this book a 6 out of 10, and think the best parts are when we are inside the mind of Cujo, who is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a previous serial killer than we will meet in a previously published, but not read by the club, book.