Jonah Kirk is a wiser than his age 9 year old African American boy who lives in the much simpler times of the 60’s. He lives in an integrated part of the city and comes from a family of musical prodigies. While his mother and grandparents are loving people, his father is an absentee good-for-nothing figure.
The story is being told by a 57 year old Jonah, looking back on his life, and the events that transpired and changed his life in the span of 1-2 years. The world was changing, and as it changed, Jonah’s life became more complicated. He assumed responsibility of protecting his loved ones, and in the process went through experiences and made decisions no child should ever have to. Along the way he encountered different kinds of people – some to be admired and respected, some to be loved, some to be cherished and some to be feared.
I haven’t read many novels by Dean Koontz. Just the Odd Thomas series, and a couple of stand alone thrillers, all of which I enjoyed. Consequently, I had no preset ideas or expectations regarding the kind of book this would turn out to be, and I am glad for it. It reads differently than any other work; the pace is sedate, and the writing more lush and literary than any other.
Koontz’s books seem to have a vein of philosophy running through them, no matter if they’re horror or suspense. There is always something to be observed, learnt and to think over when reading his novels. He has increased the philosophy and reduced the thrills in his new project.
The novel is about life. The day-to-day novelty hidden beneath the humdrum of metropolitan life. The treasures that family, friends, a day and an hour hold, when looked through the lens of simplicity, innocence and gratitude.
The prose is beautiful; it evokes a pleasant sense of mystique and charm. The narrative is intricate, not because it’s full of suspense, with things being deliberately and obviously revealed a piece at a time. It’s intricate because it’s a story being unfolded, day by day, chapter by chapter, of a group of ordinary, flawed people who become extraordinary in the way they progress through life. The characters are well crafted and are the heart and treasure of the story – my favourites are Mr. Yoshioka, Amalia and Malcolm.
The villains aren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. Rather, they should have been less sinister. They did not make an impact and would’ve been more effective, I think, if they had been portrayed more simply, because the bad guy parts were a little jarring. More than that, they did not suit the story. Simpler, without the failed creepy aspects, would’ve been better. Also, there were a couple of plot holes, and weak areas regarding Ms. Pearl and the ending. And the ten year old Jonah seems older than his years sometimes. But if you consider that an adult is narrating, the mixing of the child with the adult, of innocent wonder with mature and older perspective, can be understood.
The City is a good novel with wonderful writing and bittersweet events. It makes you ponder over the small things, the choices we make in day-to-day lives; and it makes life a little brighter.