*The article contains spoilers from the book: Misery
The book starts with our main character Paul, author of a best-selling historical romance series who had just left the Boulderado Hotel after writing Fast Cars, his first novel that did not “include Misery”. Misery “died five pages from the conclusion of Misery’s Child,” the series’ final novel. Paul crashes his Camaro while reaching for his cigarettes, drunk on celebrating champagne and caught off guard by a storm. When he meets Annie, Annie lifts Paul out of his automobile and drives him to her house, which happens to be undoubtedly strange as it’s a secluded farm outside the fictional Sidewinder, Colorado, shortly after his car accident.
As Paul wakes up at Annie’s house, he feels unimaginable pain and he discovers that he has severe leg injuries (a dislocated pelvis, a crushed knee, two shattered legs), which Annie sets coarsely and treats with “a pain-killer with a hefty codeine base called Novril”. But it doesn’t take long for Paul to discover that Annie is “dangerously insane” and has now been imprisoned in her home.
As Paul slowly but surely recovers, Annie reads what is currently the only Fast Cars manuscript and is unhappy at the “profanity”. In her rage, she hurls a soup bowl against a wall, shattering it instantly. After cleaning it up, Annie later forces Paul to swallow his Novril with soapy water.
Annie is so devastated when she finishes reading Misery’s Child and realizes Misery has died that she abandons Paul for several days. When Annie arrives, she orders Paul to burn his Fast Cars manuscript before purchasing a Royal typewriter and instructing him to create his “greatest novel,” Misery’s Return.
Not yet fully healed, high on steroids, and confined to his given room Paul doesn’t really have much choice but still, he struggles to come up with a plausible strategy to resurrect Misery. Through Annie’s prodding and a “single, reluctant suggestion”, nonetheless, Paul manages to come up with what Annie regards as “excellent” and “interesting”.
With a few exceptions, Paul and Annie settle into a comfortable routine for the following three weeks. Paul talks about his captor, Annie, who, for her part, maintains her cool and collected demeanor. Then the weather changes and Annie becomes depressed, leaving Paul alone once more.
During this period, Paul leaves his room and finds a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings from Annie’s life. Paul discovers that Annie began murdering people when she was just eleven years old.
Annie murdered dozens of elderly folks and infants during her nursing career. She was prosecuted and tried for only one infant’s death, and though the jury believed Annie was guilty, they had “quite substantial doubts as to her guilt”. Annie no longer worked as a nurse after that.
Once Annie returns, she tells Paul that his Camaro has been swept away in the spring snowmelt as she comes from her “Laughing Place,” where she goes to be alone. Annie then informs Paul that she is aware he has left his room several times. Annie ‘hobbles’ Paul by chopping off his left foot with an axe as punishment.
As he recovers from his amputation, Paul continues to write. He and Annie reach an uneasy truce until Kushner, a young police officer, arrives at Annie’s residence.
Paul yells from inside his room, then tosses his ashtray out the window, drawing the officer’s attention. Officer Kushner recognizes Paul as the missing writer he’s looking for, but Annie runs over him with her lawn mower and kills him.
Paul realizes that his and Annie’s lives are “nearly finished” after this murder. So Paul resolves to kill Annie before she can kill him.
Soon after Kushner’s disappearance, state troopers Wilkes and McKnight arrive. They interrogate Annie but do not arrest her. Paul does not try to catch their attention this time. He’s determined to accomplish Misery’s Return “in relative tranquility,” but he also intends to kill Annie himself.
After completing Misery’s Return, Paul burns the manuscript in front of a mortified Annie, then crashes his Royal typewriter onto her back, destroying it. Paul crawls out of his room, closes the door behind him, and hides in the toilet after badly hurting Annie.
Troopers Wilkes and McKnight return that evening and rescue Paul. However, Paul is frightened to learn that the troopers did not find Annie in the house. He yells until he passes out.
Towards the end of the novel, Paul is back in New York City, meeting with his editor about Misery’s Return. Despite the fact that Paul’s publisher has ordered “an unprecedented initial printing of a million copies,” Paul is unable to relax. He’s substituted Novril with alcohol, but he still has severe leg problems.
Paul is unable to write and has terrifying dreams of Annie attacking him, despite the fact that the soldiers discover Annie dead from her injuries in her barn. Finally, Paul’s writer’s block is broken when he sees a boy on the street holding a skunk. He resumes writing and breaks down in tears over his typewriter.