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.
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)