The serendipity of Stephen King (how I finally found ‘The Shining’)

Three years ago, I got it in my head that I needed to buy a copy of The Shining by Stephen King. I’d broken my cardinal rule and watched the movie first (bibliophiles, forgive this transgression), and I wanted the real thing. I wanted to hold his words in my hands, to take up residency in the pages and haunt the story the way the ghosts haunted the Overlook Hotel.

If you’re one of the approximate fourteen people who reads this blog on a semi-regular basis, you know I am no stranger to bookstores. And yet I had never found The Shining anywhere. Not even on the grimy shelves of many a Goodwill store, which I scoured in the hopes of stumbling upon a dog-eared paperback copy.

When all else fails, give up and go to the library.”

Taking Stephen’s own advice, I dutifully checked my library for the book. And I found that in the entire canon of King’s works, The Shining alone was missing from the library’s shelves.

“Buy it on Amazon,” people suggested.13728902_10206937902382200_5816161337765496062_n

But I refused to treat this book-hunt like a cheap foray into the world of Plenty O’ Fish or Tinder. Similarly, I declined my mother’s offer to send me the book if she ever unearthed it herself.

“I need to find it on my own. It will happen when it’s meant to.”

I found it both amusing and frustrating that of all King’s books, this was the one I couldn’t find. The novel explores how it is “to shine” – that is, to simply know things, like what people are thinking, or what occurrences are about to take place, or where missing things will turn up.

I have always been intuitive, so much that at times it’s seemed downright eerie. Various experiences throughout my life have made me quite confident in my own, unique sixth sense. And yet I couldn’t use that intuition to find The Shining. It was like the book existed in some other universe, one that could only be accessed through the exact right wormhole at the exact right moment.

This past weekend, the fella and I drove up to Bangor, where one of my best friends was getting married. Arriving in town too early to check into our hotel, we decided on a whim to go into downtown Bangor and hit up the Antique Marketplace – one of my favorite places to shop for secondhand books and other treasures.

In full disclosure, I wasn’t looking for The Shining this time. I was actually looking for the bathroom. And yet there it was. The book seemed to grin at me from behind a clean, glass case, beckoning me to buy it. Finally, after searching for three years, there it was.

It seemed too easy. I’d always imagined finding the book wedged into a dusty shelf, like a ripe apple on a tree ready to be picked.

“I don’t know if it’s serendipitous enough,” I said, and decided to sleep on it, knowing we could come back the next day if I so desired.

One always sleeps well after a night full of wedding festivities (a.k.a. copious amounts of dancing), and when I woke the next morning, I knew we had to go back. We returned to the store just as it opened. I shared the story of my quest to find The Shining with the woman who was working, and she disclosed that the dealer selling the book wants to open up a bookshop when he retires.

Armed with that knowledge, I felt a bit better. But it still didn’t feel completely right. She agreed to hold the book while we perused the shelves downstairs in one last-ditch effort to find the novel in the way I’d always envisioned.


Believe me when I say one can will a thing into existence. For just as we were about to call it quits, I found one more cluster of Stephen King books. And there, nestled among them, was The Shining. It felt surreal to finally pluck it from the shelf, blowing dust off the cover, smelling the slightly mildewed pages.

Ultimately, I took the prettier copy, the one from the glass case. It was too pristine to turn away, and I had to stick to my own rule: buy the first copy you find. Leaving the store, my fella declared we must celebrate the occasion. We sat on the patio of Paddy Murphy’s, talking, eating appetizers. As I looked around at the beautiful architecture of downtown Bangor, I couldn’t help but laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“Of course I found it here,” I said. “I had to follow Stephen all around the state, just to get back here, to his very own stomping grounds. Bangor, of all places.”

And that’s serendipitous enough for me.

(A special shout-out to C. at the Antique Marketplace & Cafe, who helped make this magical day possible – thanks for the book and for the chat!)

Located at 65 Main Street, the Antique Marketplace & Cafe is open daily:


View from Paddy Murphy’s patio

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Shannon Bowring

About Shannon Bowring

I am 26 years old. I was raised up in the County, in the tiny town of Ashland. I attended the University of Maine in Orono and graduated in 2012 with a BA in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. Reading and writing have always been the greatest loves of my life. I am most at home in the dusty corners of used bookstores, surrounded by forgotten books. One day, inspiration struck when I decided I wanted to combine all my loves – writing, reading, traveling, exploring these beloved shops – to create an outlet in which I can share my bookish adventures with an audience of like-minded readers who could appreciate my love of words and stories.