First edition cover
Author(s) Stephen King Country USA Language English Genre(s) Horror Publisher Viking Publication date September 8, 1981 Media type Print (hardcover) Pages 319 ISBN 978-0670451937 Preceded by Firestarter Followed by Christine
The story focuses on the Trenton family: Vic, an advertisement designer, his wife, Donna, and their four-year-old son Tad. The latter two are terrorized by the eponymous Cujo, a rabid St. Bernard. The narrative takes place in the author's recurrent fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, and is interspersed with vignettes from the seemingly mundane lives of other residents. There are no official chapters, but rather breaks in between passages, which indicate when the author is alternating to a different point of view.
Cujo also references King's previous novel, The Dead Zone, on several occasions. For instance, serial killer Frank Dodd has now achieved a kind of bogeyman status in Castle Rock.
Stephen King discusses Cujo in On Writing, referring to it as a novel he "barely remembers writing at all". The book was written during a period when King was drinking heavily. Somewhat wistfully, King goes on to say that he likes the book and that he wishes he could remember enjoying the good parts as he put them down on the page.
The story is set almost entirely in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. The action centers on Cujo, a St. Bernard, that belongs to Joe Camber and his family. Although Joe is fond of Cujo, he never bothers to get the dog vaccinated against rabies. While chasing a rabbit in the fields around the Cambers' house, Cujo gets his head temporarily stuck in the entrance to a small limestone cave and is bitten on the nose by a bat and infected with rabies. Meanwhile, Joe's wife Charity desires a respite from her abusive husband, and she is worried about Joe's negative influence on their son, Brett. Charity manages to win the state lottery and bribe Joe into allowing her to take Brett on a trip to visit Charity's sister, Holly, in Connecticut.
Soon after Charity and Brett leave, Cujo attacks and kills the Cambers' neighbor, Gary Pervier. Joe goes to the Pervier home to check on Gary because they were planning to go to Boston, only to find him dead. Before Joe is able to call authorities for help, Cujo attacks and kills him as well.
The Trentons—Donna, Vic, and four-year-old Tad—are having problems of their own. Vic has discovered that his wife had been involved in an affair. In the midst of this household tension, Vic's fledgling advertising agency is failing, and he is forced to leave on a business trip to Boston and New York. Donna, home alone with Tad, takes their failing Ford Pinto to the Cambers' for repairs. The car breaks down in Camber's yard and as Donna attempts to find Mr. Camber, Cujo appears and is ready to pounce. She climbs back in the car and Cujo starts to attack.
Donna and Tad become trapped in their vehicle. During one escape attempt, Donna is bitten in the stomach and leg, but manages to survive and escape back into the car. She considers running for the Cambers' home but is afraid the door will be locked and she will be subsequently killed by Cujo, leaving her son all alone, and abandons the idea.
Vic returns to Castle Rock after several failed attempts to contact her. He also learns from the police that Steve Kemp, the man with whom Donna was having an affair, is suspected of ransacking his home and possibly kidnapping Donna and Tad. However, in an effort to explore all leads, the state police send local Castle Rock Sheriff George Bannerman out to the Cambers' house. When George gets there, Cujo attacks and kills him. Following this, Donna again decides to get out of the car, and attack Cujo with Brett's baseball bat in an attempt to save Tad, beating Cujo and finally killing him. Vic arrives to see Donna beating Cujo and he looks in the car only to see Tad dead from dehydration. Unable to accept the fact that Tad is gone, Donna attempts to revive him until the police arrives to take Tad's body away. Vic and Donna continue to live with each other but not without problems.
Mentions in other works by King
Cujo is mentioned in many other works by Stephen King including Pet Sematary and most of the other novels and short stories which take place in Castle Rock. These include The Dark Half and Needful Things.
- ^ "1982 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1982. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- ^ March 1, 1976. Patty's Long Ordeal on the Stand  Time.com
- ^ August 14, 1981. Cujo: New York Times Book Review  New York Times.com
- ^ King, Stephen. On Writing, page 110, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 978-0-340-82046-9
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