As some of you may already know, I absolutely love Dean Koontz’ Odd Thomas series, but I tend to stay away from his other novels because of the gore/horror element. However, I was intrigued as I read a few reviews on Amazon about his latest novel The City. Some were saying “It is unlike any other Koontz novel” or “If you’re looking for horror, you’ll be disappointed.” So, I decided to spend the $12 on the Kindle version and give it a try… and I was not disappointed. I kid you not when I say that this book is one of the best novels I have ever read!
The story is told from the perspective of Jonah Kirk at age 54, reflecting on his life as a child in the 60’s. Little Jonah lives in a walk-up apartment in The City with his young mother, who sings at Jazz clubs and waitresses at Woolworth’s, and his no-good father, who is an aspiring chef at a local restaurant. When Jonah’s father decides to leave Jonah and his mother, Jonah believes that his life has changed for the better. Now, he can learn to play the piano like he always wanted and he doesn’t have to listen to his dad’s nagging wife stories.
But after meeting a lady named Pearl, who claims to be The City incarnate, Jonah’s life becomes a tangle of prophetic dreams and dangerous people. With the help of his friend and neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka, he will embark on an adventure involving crime and conspiracy that will change his life forever.
I found the book to be a combination of A Boy’s Life by Robert McGammon and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I enjoyed reading about the adventures of a little boy and his great wonder over all things simple and beautiful. Jonah’s character is wonderfully loveable with his appreciation of good music, his innocence, and his sense of humor. And Koontz’ Catholicism is ingeniously interwoven within Jonah’s family and within The City herself. But it is definitely not a tale for the faint of heart. The story does take place during the turbulent 1960’s, after all. There is great suffering that many characters must endure, and Jonah learns that you can either let suffering eat you from the inside out or you can let it mold you into a greater person:
“After you have suffered great losses and known much pain, it is not cowardice to wish to live henceforth with a minimum of suffering. And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless.”
Jonah became a literary hero for me. I laughed and cried (real tears); I can only name two other authors who have done that to me. The only problem I have with the book is that Ignatius didn’t publish it…
I also recommend reading the ‘prequel’ short story called “The Neighbor”. Although it is not required reading before you read the book, it gives you a greater understanding and appreciation for Jonah’s best friend Malcolm and his sister Amalia (and it’s only 99 cents). However, just as a warning to sensitive readers, there are some horror elements.