“Grief can destroy you –or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”
There is a reason why Dean Koontz is one of my favourite writers and I can’t stop reading his books (even though 60% of my library are his). There is a certain lyricism to his words and a way to talk to you about your sadness, your alone-ness, your pure joy and faith and trust.
And Odd Hours is one of those few books which still makes me smile when I read it. The entire action takes place over 24 hours and Odd along with his faithful ghost dog and ghost Frank Sinatra embark on an adventure on Magic Beach to fight off a terrorist plot.
Odd has returned from the monastery of Brother Odd, the previous book, and has settled in the little coastal town of Magic Beach. He has a premonition of a large number of deaths, which are somehow related to “The Woman of the Bell,” a pregnant woman who he has seen on the pier. He named her thus because she wears a bell necklace around her neck. Odd goes to the pier, finds the woman, talks to her and finds her to be very nice, but very cryptic, and then meets three thugs. He convinces Annamaria, which is the woman of the bell’s first name, to leave the pier and let him handle the thugs. When one of the thugs touches him, Odd and the thug (who we later learn is named Utgard (the name seems to be related to the Norse giants) also experiences the dream. In the confusion, Odd jumps off of the pier and escapes.
Odd uses his “psychic magnetism” power to find Annamaria, who asks him if he will die for her. To his surprise, he says yes and becomes her protector. He takes her to his friend Birdie, and older lady who was deformed by her drunken father as a child. Birdie agrees to watch after her while Odd takes care of saving the world from the death he saw.
“It’s only life. We all get through it. Not all of us complete the journey in the same condition. Along the way, some lose their legs or eyes in accidents or altercations, while others skate through the years with nothing worse to worry about than an occassional bad-hair day.
I still possessed both legs and both eyes, and even my hair looked all right when I rose that Wednesday morning in late January. If I returned to bed sixteen hours later, having lost all my hair but nothing else, I would consider the day a triumph. Even minus a few teeth, I’d call it a triumph.”
Odd goes to the house of a man who assaulted him on the beach after he had escaped from the first band of thugs, and finds the man dead in his house, with a woman. The spirit of the dead man appears, and is very upset. Shortly after appearing, the mirror reaches out and grabs the spirit, and takes him, presumably to hell. Odd very briefly sees a terrible face in the mirror. Odd speculates that spirits that are going to be punished rarely wait around in this world for very long because they owe a debt, and can’t escape paying it. Odd leaves the house quickly through a window as the police arrive.
“In a clutch or a corner, I tend to make a weapon out of what is near at hand. That can be anything from a crowbar to a cat, though if I had a choice, I would prefer an angry cat, which I have found to be more effective than a crowbar.
Although weaponless, I left the house by the back door, with two chocolate-pumpkin cookies. It’s a tough world out there, and a man has to armor himself against it however he can.”
In the backyard he runs into a fence in the dense fog, alerting the police of his presence, and escapes them, with the help of a Golden Retriever he meets along the way. Odd runs to a church.
In the church he meets the minister, who counsels him, but the minister calls the police because he recognizes the dog. The policeman who comes is the chief of police, who is scary, big, and mean. He takes Odd to jail to interrogate him, but not before Odd can hide his wallet (and the wallet of the dead man) in the church.
Malevolence and paranoia cohabit in a twisted mind. Bad men trust no one because they know the treachery of which they themselves are capable.
Bad men…destroy one another, although…they prefer those who are innocent and as pure as this world allows them to be. They feed on violence, but they feast on the despoiling of what is good.”
Odd is being interrogated, and he discovers that Hoss Shakleton, the Police Chief, thinks that he and Annamaria are some secret agents, here to stop his plan to blow up four nuclear bombs in cities in the US.
“I need those nukes, the chief said. I need them, I need them right now.
I don’t want to be an enabler, sir. I’d rather get you into a twelve step program to help you break this addiction.”
Odd plays along, and even pretends to be interested in helping Shakleton and make a lot of money, but then he escapes with the help of the ghost of Frank Sinatra, who has been following Odd since Elvis left him to move on to the next life. Odd taunts Sinatra into becoming a poltergeist, and uses this time to escape the Chief and Utgard, who has joined him in the interrogation room.
Odd stows aboard the boat going to get the nukes, kills (much to his dismay — he didn’t ever want to kill anyone, but had no choice; he feels that he did not murder, he killed for the greater good) the thugs on the boat, beaches the boat, and calls the FBI and Homeland Security to take care of the nukes. At the end of the book, he runs into the Chief again when he goes to get his wallet, and narrowly escapes him when he is killed by one of the thugs from the beginning of the book. The preacher also kills his wife (they were also in on the scheme.) Odd is also forced to kill the other thug at the church, in order to escape. In and around the church, Odd encounters coyotes (for the second time in the book) and at first runs from them, but eventually escapes them by telling them to leave, and that they did not belong there, as Annamaria did during the first coyote encounter. This does not work until Odd touches the bell pendant, which Annamaria had given him in the beginning of the book. Annamaria told Odd earlier that the coyotes were what they seemed and more; since we did not see Bodachs in this book, I suspect that the coyotes may have been Bodachs in disguise.
The book ends with Odd leaving with Annamaria (who seems to know a lot about Odd’s past with his “Lost Girl Stormy,” and even calls him “Odd One,” as Stormy did in the first book.) Birdie says that she will join them later, and they drive away. Odd has a mental breakdown because of all of the killing, and Annamaria reassures him that he has saved entire cities.
No one can genuinely love the world, which is too large to love entire. To love all the world at once is…dangerous self-delusion. Loving the world is like loving the idea of love, which is perilous because, feeling virtuous about this grand affection, you are freed from the struggles and the duties that come with loving people as individuals, with loving one place-home-above all others.
I embrace the world on a scale that allows genuine love-the small places like a town, a neighborhood, a street-and I love life, because of what the beauty of this world and of this life portend.
On the last page of the book is a copy of the card that Odd had gotten from a gypsy fortune teller machine with Stormy in the first book, which reads “You Are Destined to Be Together Forever.”
“By doing, I learn what to do. By going, I learn where to go. One day, by dying, I’ll learn how to die, and leave the world and hope to land in light.”