Sunday, July 20, 2014

The City

The City by Dean Koontz
Random House: 7/1/2014
ebook, 416 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345545930

New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz is at the peak of his acclaimed powers with this major new novel—a rich, multi-layered story that moves back and forth across decades and generations as a gifted musician relates the “terrible and wonderful” events that began in his city in 1967, when he was ten.
There are millions of stories in the city—some magical, some tragic, others terror-filled or triumphant. Jonah Kirk’s story is all of those things as he draws readers into his life in the city as a young boy, introducing his indomitable grandfather, also a “piano man”; his single mother, a struggling singer; and the heroes, villains, and everyday saints and sinners who make up the fabric of the metropolis in which they live—and who will change the course of Jonah’s life forever. Welcome to The City, a place of evergreen dreams where enchantment and malice entwine, where courage and honor are found in the most unexpected corners and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart.

My Thoughts:

The City by Dean Koontz is a very highly recommended coming-of-age story about love, friendship and loyalty.
"In our lives, we come to moments of great significance that we fail to recognize, the meaning of which does not occur to us for many years. Each of us has his agenda and focuses on it, and therefore we are often blind to what is before our eyes."

As a much older Jonah looks back on his family and the events that happened during 1967 when he was 9 to 10 years old. It was a year that would change his life. Jonah comes from a long line of musicians. His mother, Sylvia, is a gifted singer while his grandfather, Teddy Bledsoe was a piano man. They loved jazz, big band, and swing music. Jonah himself is a piano man and getting better every day. His on and off again father, Tilton, is a loser who is never there and suspect when he is around.

"My name is Jonah Ellington Basie Hines Eldridge Wilson Hampton Armstrong Kirk. From as young as I can remember, I loved the city. Mine is a story of love reciprocated. It is the story of loss and hope, and of the strangeness that lies just beneath the surface tension of daily life, a strangeness infinite fathoms in depth."

The City (which is New York City, although it is not named) is actually personified into a real person from whom young Jonas gets advice and, perhaps, a couple of visions that are meant to save him. "She said that more than anything, cities are people. Sure, you need to have the office buildings and the parks and the nightclubs and the museums and all the rest of it, but in the end it’s the people—and the kind of people they are—who make a city great or not. And if a city is great, it has a soul of its own, one spun up from the threads of the millions of souls who have lived there in the past and live there now."

The story is told from the perspective of an older and wiser Jonah looking back at his childhood, so he naturally gives his younger self more insight into what is going on than most kids his age would have. "I was already an optimist when all this happened that I’m telling you about. Although I’ll reverse myself now and then to give you some background, this particular story really starts rolling in 1967, when I was ten, the year the woman said she was the city. By June of that year, I had moved with my mom into Grandpa’s house."

Koontz's writing is superb and he is a masterful story teller. He had me engrossed in this tale from the beginning to the end. I can say that I loved this book. Jonah is a great protagonist.  I loved the character Mr. Yoshioka. Yes, the bad guys are not fully realized characters but, to me, they are as an adult would recall them, looking back armed with more knowledge and recounting the information from the point-of-view of the child he was at the time.

Where I'm speculating that some readers had a problem with The City is because it is not a horror novel, like one might expect from Koontz, and while it has suspense and some moments where you will read as swiftly as possible to find out what is going to happen, this is more of a family drama/novel of suspense where all the action leads up to an event that changed Jonah's life. I was actually hesitant to start reading The City based on the poor ratings/reviews, but, alas, that was to my own detriment.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House via Netgalley for review purposes.

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