Book Review: ‘The City’

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Review by Ann McDonald

A young boy, a musical prodigy, discovering life’s wonders—and mortal dangers. His best friend, also a gifted musician, who will share his journey into destiny.

The onset of this drama begins in 1965 when Jonah Kirk is only eight years old. The story moves backwards and forwards which makes it an uneven read. I do understand that prolific writers have to keep their material fresh and this change of genre works in part for Koontz. The demonic evil and infernal influences are all there but more implied than actual. The supernatural is embodied in a woman named Pearl who represents the soul and heart of the city in which Jonah lives. She takes him under her protection because of his love for the city.

Jonah is a music prodigy who wants to be a piano man like his grandfather Teddy. His mother is a great singer and could out-sing Ella Fitzgerald and his friend Malcolm who is his own age, is a brilliant saxophonist and they remain friends for life. His father is a man who never wanted him and is not in his life much and is finally kicked out of the house, much to his relief. Jonah has dreams and one in particular shows a dead woman and it scares him. When he meets her in his apartment complex, he can’t believe his eyes and follows her to see where she lives.

She lives on the 6th floor and he sneaks around, wanting to know more and that is the beginning of hell for him as she is evil incarnate and has him numbered. There are many references to the great jazz musicians from back in the day and a myriad of people enter his life and are woven into the story, a story that reflects the hard political time for black people with references to the Japanese internment camps during World War II. In the end, it shows endurance in the face of great hostility and forgiveness that is so difficult for him when Malcolm’s sister, a beautiful young girl, is taken away from him.

She had opened his eyes and heart to architecture and art, showing him another level of beauty, apart from the music. He tells his story well and kept it interesting, with the background well drawn. But this was not what I had expected when I picked up this Koontz novel. It’s a complicated story and it will take you to places you don’t want to go. I will forgo the ending and let you come to that yourself. Recommended.

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Ann McDonald

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