The Darkest Evening of the Year

I had never read a novel by Dean Koontz before, so I was intrigued when I found The Darkest Evening of the Year in a pile left for me by my voracious reader- (I don’t know how she puts the books away like she does) soul sister- friend.  The image of the Golden Retriever on the cover sealed the deal as I am a dog lover, especially of Retrievers.

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So, reading through chapter one, Koontz had my attention, but not in the way I had hoped.  Tears were welling in my eyes at his description of dog abuse.  I was nearly “out,” so to speak, and onto the next novel, until my friend reassured me the novel does not focus on the abuse for long.  Whew!  Give me murders, natural disasters, disease, I can read on and on, but I cringe at even the mention of animal abuse.  Yes, I am the one who changes the channel when “that commercial” comes on because the one time I watched, I was wiping tears as I reached for the computer to search the inventory of our local humane society.  Ugh!

As for the book itself, its structure reveals each character’s perspective chapter by chapter which kept urging me to read further even into the wee hours of the night.  The protagonist Amy Redwing has such a passion for Golden Retrievers she has founded Golden Heart whose mission is to find forever homes for this particular breed.  Koontz detailed description of the behaviors of Redwing’s dogs is uncanny.  I laughed thinking of how my own Labrador Retriever acts in the same manner if not in a more untrained fashion.  Working on it!

The reader slowly learns along with her boyfriend Brian of her past which she has kept secret for nearly a decade.  As he reveals his own regrets, the truth of how the characters’ lives are entwined comes to fruition.

What made me sit up and take notice is that sprinkled throughout the novel, Koontz offers his outlook on life with some truly deep thoughts.  One such example comes at the conclusion of The Darkest Evening of the Year:

Too many dogs continue to be abused and abandoned- one is too many- and people continue to kill people for money and envy for no reason at all.  Bad people succeed and good people fail, but that’s not the end of the story.  Miracles happen that nobody sees, and among us walk heroes who are never recognized, and people live in loneliness because they cannot believe they are loved . . ..  (354)

The World’s Strongest Librarian

Heartbroken with my mother’s dementia and busy with my two kiddos off of school for the summer, I have struggled lately with finding a book which captures my attention.  While on vacation in Salt Lake City, Utah, though, I discovered that book I had been searching for desperately.

When out of town, I always like to explore the local library with my family, especially a library located downtown.  All of those books housed right in the center of the hustle and bustle of a city causes the goosebumps to rise on my skin.  So, while in Salt Lake City, my girls and I sought out the local library.

While at lunch, we asked the waiter to point us in the right direction of the city library.  I was bummed when while rubbing his chin he repeated my question back to me with, “Hmmmm.  Where is the local library?”  Doesn’t everyone know where his/her local library is and frequent it on a daily if not weekly basis?  I know the answer is “no,” but always advocate for an eventual answer of “yes.”

After too long of a walk for my arthritic knees, we arrived at a beautiful glass building with multi-levels.  We could barely contain our excitement as we entered the structure.  What was interesting to note is that to the left of the main entrance was a row of small shops, one being the library’s gift shop.  My daughters and I agreed we would definitely peruse this shop once our exploration of the library as well as the FREE art class offered by an instructor from the Utah Museum of Fine Arts was complete.

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Two hours later we were looking at all of the literary offerings in the small shop.  What caught my attention was a book with the title The World’s Strongest Librarian with a subtitle of, A Book Lover’s Adventures.  Sold (!) even before the young woman working behind the counter said the author, Josh Hanagarne, was a librarian who worked in this very branch, the branch my girls and I had just explored.  If this wasn’t the perfect souvenir, I didn’t know what was.

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Immediately taken with the anecdote offered in the Introduction, I giggled, cried, and learned while feverishly reading this book.  Hanagarne has such a humorous take on life which comes shining through in his detailed descriptions.  I could smell the stench in the library, hear the man calling Hanagarne a “. . . tall bigot” (1), and feel his exasperation when young people didn’t think reading was “cool.”  When he described how in one of his college English classes, students nearly came to “. . . blows over the implications of a semicolon . . .” I couldn’t help but think of my own English studies full of uncomfortable arguments in class, which I had to sit through while watching the clock, and laugh out loud.

With his words, Hanagarne caused me to fall in love with his devout Mormon mother, the person responsible for the author’s love of reading and his constant cheerleader through life, and his wife Janette, who stood by him through years of educational and career failings due to his Tourette Syndrome.

I found myself reading portions of the book to my hub and then later catching him reading The World’s Strongest Librarian on his own in our hotel room.

Besides a fascinating look into the life of a Mormon, a young boy suffering with Tourette’s, and a young man struggling to find his way in life, it is also a list of recommended readings as Hanagarne highlights books which have touched his life throughout the years. . . a definite must-read.