Dean Koontz created a twisting story with the psychological mystery, Ashley Bell. With layers that reminded me a bit of The Twilight Zone, he has woven a story within a story. At times I was a bit confused. Most of the time I was completely absorbed. I felt like I was missing some essential element of the story and this gap of information kept me reading on like good suspense novels do.
Bibi, a headstrong and imaginative writer, is our main character. Above all else, Bibi believes that she’s the master of her own life and that nothing can be left up to fate. When she receives shocking news that she only has a year to live, she responds by saying, “We’ll see.” When she recovers just as quickly as she was diagnosed, Bibi learns that she has been saved in order to help another, Ashley Bell. Bibi sets out on a journey that is both mystical and very real to save the little girl.
I liked Bibi from the start. With her go-getter attitude, I couldn’t help but be impressed by her drive and ability to face her antagonists head-on.
While the plot was imaginative and shocking, the book seemed to be longer than the story necessitated. I thought that some sections of the book dragged a bit, and while I wanted to see what happened to Bibi, I wanted the story to move more quickly. My critique is two sided though because my impatience to unravel its mysteries explains how well the book hooked me…
My favorite quote from the book – “ I’ve read more truth in fiction than in nonfiction, partly because fiction can deal with the numinous, and nonfiction rarely does.”
Overall, Ashley Bell is an engaging book with parallel threads that are all woven back together in the end.
“When I write, I suspend judgment of my characters. I really love them.” – Elizabeth Strout. I was lucky enough to attend an author reading with Elizabeth Strout and was able to hear her read a passage from her latest book, My Name is Lucy Barton. It’s always a pleasure to hear an author read their work so this was a great experience!
The book is told from Lucy Barton’s perspective and while it’s a shorter novel, it covers many powerful issues. The most prominent is the relationship between a mother and daughter. The book switches between a period when Lucy is in the hospital with flashbacks to her childhood. Lucy grew up in a very poor household, her family of five living in a garage when she was young. Lucy and her mother have a very complicated relationship, but at the same time it is very simple in this: they love each other irrevocably. Her mother has never been on a plane, but flies out to Lucy while she is in the hospital and stays by her bedside for 5 days. During this time we see Lucy ‘s memories of pain, fear and love, although it is done very subtly.
A couple of my favorite quotes from the book are the following:
“It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it’s the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.”
“I feel that people may not understand that my mother could never say the words I love you. I feel that people may not understand: It was all right.”
I really liked My Name is Lucy Barton! Because it’s a shorter book it’s very quick, but very consuming at the same time.