“To generations of the willfully blind, true beauty can remain unseen in plain sight, but beauty sooner or later asserts itself—always, always, always—and is at last recognized, because there’s so damn little of it.”
The theme of beauty runs heavily in this wonderfully poetic new Koontz book. The City is unlike most of his writing in some ways, because it moves more slowly and has less action and a smaller (though still present) supernatural element. But it is also like most of his writing, in that it is funny, with deeply drawn, detailed characters that can touch your heart.
Jonah comes from a family that makes beautiful music. His mother is a singer, with a talent far beyond what the jobs she can find deserve. His grandfather is a piano man, well-known in the area hotels, playing for the wealthy and lucky. This book is Jonah’s coming-of-age story, and it follows him through those difficult and pivotal days in our lives when we become the adult that we will live our lives as. Along his journey, he meets other, amazing people – a neighbor who carries a bitterness in his heart from his time in the WWII Japanese interment camps that only a surrogate son can soften, a young woman with a gift of friendship and light that will enlarge the world Jonah occupies, an elderly lady that offers him insight and gifts of a piano to learn upon and a view of the world most cannot see and, most importantly, a best friend who will become a part of his life until his days as an elder, who encourages him to tell this tale of his childhood and share his experiences with the world.
This is a thoughtful book. I’ve read some reviews that complain that it is slow, and there are places, certainly, where there is little action. Those parts are more about the growth of the characters and the exposition of the timeline. If you are looking for a book that is fast and furious, full of chases and explosions, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a book that takes on the pace of a slower era, before smart phones and PCs in every home, when kids took the bus to the museum to have fun, when people spent time listening – really listening – to music, and when the world was about to enter an uproar of upheaval with the politics of the 60’s, then you’ll really like this book.
Also, take the time to look up the paintings talked about in the book. You’ll be glad that you did.