Anita's Haven

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LIFE EXPECTANCY by Dean Koontz – my review no.50

on 04/05/2016

Dive into the crazy and normal!

Bizarre, unique, morbid, witty, warm and intense… What a deliciously weird dip into the paranormal and horror! Every time I read Koontz I am amazed at why I like his books and writing. This book is no exception. From the horryfying initial scene of the massacre in the maternity ward, which I am not sure I would allow many authors (violence where there are children in the proximity just doesn’t compute well with me), to the witty and almost comedic tone with which James Jimmy Tock tells his life story, this book is one of my sinful pleasures.

Jimmy is an average guy faced with a curious damnation from his very birth – knowing exactly which five days of his life will be catastrophic (to the date), but not knowing how or why. The way his loving family accepts this oddity is a pure gem. Grandma Rowena, playing the role of the devil’s advocate at the family meeting, is just one of the deliciously grotesque, yet thoroughly intelligent and meaningful parts of this book.

As with all of Koontz’s books, and any book in the world for that matter, this kind of horror blended into everyday lives is simply not everyone’s cup of tea. But there is so much underlying and overt meaning and relevance in his stories, balancing the thin line between reality and paranormal, that I find it intriguing and challenging. Rethinking our existence through Koontz’s ominous, ridiculous, grotesque and warm moments is an acquired taste, but I sure have acquired it. Managing to make family values, laughter and kindness shine above all the psychotic madness in the story is tantamount to fighting to preserve kindness in this crazy world.

This is not a fun book and do not expect it to relax you. Expect it to drag you into the abyss of the ugly in people, and yank you back into the beauty of kind, functional families and romance, keeping you on your toes the whole time, wondering what might go wrong, because something definitely will, and how Jimmy will survive it and actually find joy in it. Or at other times, when things seem to be going so colossally wrong, you will find yourself wondering if they can ever go right again, because how could the mad evil even be stopped? You may find yourself place the book aside, as even I did, but keep it close by, waiting for its tantalizing storytelling and your own curiosity to pull you back in and make you pick it up again. And relish its wicked wisdom, and by ‘wicked’ I do mean both contrary meanings of the word – the devilishly sneaky and the shockingly great. Page-turner? Not for all, but by all means.

The ending? As the circus theme pervades the entire story, so the ending, in all its grotesque absurdity and logic, does not let down. The entire setting, the unraveling of the plot, even the character costumes, all dance the thin line of pulp-fiction and genius writing. I choose the latter.

(I read this book in the Croatian translation, so allow me to compliment the translator as well, who did a marvellous job at keeping the flow and style of text enjoyable and easy to follow. It is rare for me to read a translation and not be forced to wonder what exactly the original sounded like, because there is something off with the translation. )



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