5 stars out of 5
If for no other reason than writing that is eloquent, even exquisite, this book deserves to be read. It is, IMHO, story-telling at its absolute best (and if I could give it 10 stars, I would). Basically, it's a tale of lifelong friends, Jonah Kirk and Malcolm Pomeranz, that takes place in New York City and begins in the 1950s and ends when Jonah, who relates most of the story as a recollection of life-altering events, is 57.
Actually, it begins with The Neighborhood, a short story and prequel to this book (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/989028284). It was very good - I gave it 5 stars as well - so it's definitely worth reading. But although it provides a foundation for this book - and I recommend reading it if you can get your hands on a copy - I don't think it's absolutely necessary to read it before tackling The City.
Both Jonah and Malcolm are musical prodigies - Jonah a piano man and Malcolm a saxophonist. Jonah is black and Malcolm is white, and both come from interesting, if different families. Jonah's mostly-absent father has a history of breaking his mother's heart; Malcolm's parents, who live in the same house, are equally absent from each other, forcing Malcolm and his older sister, Amalia, to do all the household chores. When the story begins, Amalia has earned a scholarship to a prestigious university and soon will be leaving Malcolm, who is somewhere around 12 years old, behind.
A few years earlier, Jonah a mysterious woman he calls Pearl - a woman who changes his life forever by somehow arranging for a piano to appear in the community center Jonah frequents; that leads to piano lessons and a path toward becoming a professional musician like Jonah's mother - a lunch counter waitress by day and singer by night.
As Jonah relates the events of his past, readers learn of the endearing and contentious relationships with his mother, his grandfather, his errant father, another mysterious woman named Fiona Cassidy who appears to Jonah in a dream (dead, I might add) and a couple of other notable characters. Jonah's tale is one of love, intrigue and yes, suspense - but don't expect in-your-face, edge-of-your-seat horror. More than anything else, this is a touching story about love, courage, the end of innocence in the whole of a city that's bigger than the sum of its parts. Or, to quote a line from the book, "Time teaches us that the musical score of life oscillates between that of 'Psycho' and 'The Sound of Music'..."
The City: A Novel by Dean Koontz (Bantam, July 2014); 418 pp.