Monday, October 19, 2009

A Review: One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz

  • Mass Market Paperback: 704 pages

    • Publisher: Bantam; First Thus edition (October 29, 2002)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0553582755
    • ISBN-13: 978-0553582758

Part  X-Files, part thriller, this book is unique in more ways than one.  The characters are typical of Koontz in that they are never boring, never ordinary.  Micky Bellsong is at a critical time in her life, staying with her Aunt Geneva while trying to sort out her problems and begin anew.  Micky and Geneva meet their new neighbor Leilani, a young girl living with her drugged out mother, Sinsemilla and stepfather, Preston Maddoc.  Preston believes that the elderly, infirm and handicapped should be killed so they don't become a drain on society.  And since Leilani has physical handicaps, she knows what is in store for her.  She tells Micky and Geneva that Preston is planning to pass off her imminent death as a benevolent alien abduction.

Add to the mix a motherless boy, a strange boy who goes by the alias Curtis Hammond and is the quarry of two cross-country manhunts, one led by the FBI and the other by mass murderers who, like the messianic Curtis, may not be what they seem.

All of the characters eventually come together in rural Idaho in a desperate  attempt to save Leilani and as a result find true wisdom and joy.

Never have I read a book with so many nutty, eccentric characters without it being just plain silly.  However, put all of these nutty characters together and they just seem to work.  Micky is one of the more attractive heroines, but the real star is Leilani, whose spunky nature and sparkling and humorous dialogue easily make her this books most memorable character.  Underneath the tragedy, mystery and adventure lies a story about good vs evil, revelation and friendship. 

If I had to say one negative thing about the book it would be that it was too long.  On occasion the narrative seemed to drawn out and really unnecessary.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

In a dusty trailer park on the far edge of the California dream, Michelina Bellsong contemplates the choices she has made. At twenty-eight, she wants to change the direction of her troubled life but can’t find her way—until a new family settles into the rental trailer next door and she meets the young girl who will lead her on a remarkable quest that will change Micky herself and everything she knows—or thinks she knows—forever.

Despite the brace she must wear on her deformed left leg, and her withered left hand, nine-year-old Leilani Klonk radiates a buoyant and indomitable spirit that inspires Micky. Beneath Leilani’s effervescence, however, Micky comes to sense a quiet desperation that the girl dares not express.

Leilani’s mother is little more than a child herself. And the girl’s stepfather, Preston Maddoc, is educated but threatening. He has moved the family from place to place as he fanatically investigates UFO sightings, striving to make contact, claiming to have had a vision that by Leilani’s tenth birthday aliens will either heal her or take her away to a better life on their world.

Slowly, ever more troubling details emerge in Leilani’s conversations with Micky. Most chilling is Micky’s discovery that Leilani had an older brother, also disabled, who vanished after Maddoc took him into the woods one night and is now “gone to the stars.”

Leilani’s tenth birthday is approaching. Micky is convinced the girl will be dead by that day. While the child-protection bureaucracy gives Micky the runaround, the Maddoc family slips away into the night. Micky sets out across America to track and find them, alone and afraid but for the first time living for something bigger than herself.

She finds herself pitted against an adversary, Preston Maddoc, as fearsome as he is cunning. The passion and disregard for danger with which Micky pursues her quest bring to her side a burned-out detective who joins her on a journey of incredible peril and startling discoveries, a journey through terrible darkness to unexpected light.

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