One Door Away from Heavenby Dean Koontz, Anne Twomey
"In a dusty trailer park on the far edge of the California dream, Michelina Bellsong contemplates the choices she has made. At twenty-eight, she wants to change the direction of her troubled life but can't find her way - until a new family settles into the rental trailer next door and she meets the young girl who will lead her on a remarkable quest." "Despite the… See more details below
"In a dusty trailer park on the far edge of the California dream, Michelina Bellsong contemplates the choices she has made. At twenty-eight, she wants to change the direction of her troubled life but can't find her way - until a new family settles into the rental trailer next door and she meets the young girl who will lead her on a remarkable quest." "Despite the brace she must wear on her deformed left leg, and her withered left hand, nine-year-old Leilani Klonk radiates a buoyant and indomitable spirit that inspires Micky. Beneath Leilani's effervescence, however, Micky comes to sense a quiet desperation that the girl dares not express. Leilani's mother is lost in drugs. The girl's stepfather, Preston Maddoc, is educated but threatening. He has moved the family from place to place as he fanatically investigates UFO sightings, striving to make contact, claiming to have had a vision that by Leilani's tenth birthday aliens will either heal her or take her away to a better life on their world. Slowly, ever more troubling details emerge in Leilani's conversations with Micky. Most chilling is Micky's discovery the Leilani had an older brother, also disabled, who vanished after Maddoc took him into the woods one night and is now "gone to the stars."" Leilani's tenth birthday is approaching. Micky is convinced the girl will be dead by that day. While the child-protection bureaucracy gives Micky the runaround, the Maddoc family slips away into the night. Micky sets out across America to track and find them, alone and afraid but for the first time living for something bigger than herself. She finds herself pitted against an adversary, Preston Maddoc, as fearsome as he is cunning. Yet Micky pursues her quest, and her passion, her courage, draw a burned-out detective to her side. Hundreds of miles away, a motherless boy and a homeless dog begin an even more astonishing journey. Ahead for them all lie incredible peril, startling discoveries, and paths that will draw them
“A web of intrigue . . . Koontz lets the reader glide along, turning the pages in wonder.”—The Denver Post
“A thrilling chase, adventure, mystery, suspense . . . funny, scary, filled with unexpected plot twists—Koontz at the top of his considerable form.”—Toronto Sun
“Fearless imagination . . . Koontz lights up a dark galaxy.”—Kirkus Reviews
Read an Excerpt
THE WORLD IS FULL of broken people. Splints, casts, miracle drugs, and time can’t mend fractured hearts, wounded minds, torn spirits.
Currently, sunshine was Micky Bellsong’s medication of choice, and southern California in late August was an apothecary with a deep supply of this prescription.
Tuesday afternoon, wearing a bikini and oiled for broiling, Micky reclined in a lounge chair in her aunt Geneva’s backyard. The nylon webbing was a nausea-inducing shade of green, and it sagged, too, and the aluminum joints creaked as though the lawn furniture were far older than Micky, who was only twenty-eight, but who sometimes felt ancient.
Her aunt, from whom fate had stolen everything except a reliable sense of humor, referred to the yard as “the garden.” That would be the rosebush.
The property was wider than it was deep, to allow the full length of the house trailer to face the street. Instead of a lawn with trees, a narrow covered patio shaded the front entrance. Here in back, a strip of grass extended from one side of the lot to the other, but it provided a scant twelve feet of turf between the door and the rear fence. The grass flourished because Geneva watered it regularly with a hose.
The rosebush, however, responded perversely to tender care. In spite of ample sunshine, water, and plant food, in spite of the regular aeration of its roots and periodic treatment with measured doses of insecticide, the bush remained as scraggly and as blighted as any specimen watered with venom and fed pure sulfur in the satanic gardens of Hell.
Face to the sun, eyes closed, striving to empty her mind of all thought, yet troubled by insistent memories, Micky had been cooking for half an hour when a small sweet voice asked, “Are you suicidal?”
She turned her head toward the speaker and saw a girl of nine or ten standing at the low, sagging picket fence that separated this trailer space from the one to the west. Sun glare veiled the kid’s features.
“Skin cancer kills,” the girl explained.
“So does vitamin D deficiency.”
“Your bones get soft.”
“Rickets. I know. But you can get vitamin D in tuna, eggs, and dairy products. That’s better than too much sun.”
Closing her eyes again, turning her face to the deadly blazing heavens, Micky said, “Well, I don’t intend to live forever.”
“Maybe you haven’t noticed, but nobody does.”
“I probably will,” the girl declared.
“How’s that work?”
“A little extraterrestrial DNA.”
“Yeah, right. You’re part alien.”
“Not yet. I have to make contact first.”
Micky opened her eyes again and squinted at the ET wannabe. “You’ve been watching too many reruns of The X Files, kid.”
“I’ve only got until my next birthday, and then all bets are off.” The girl moved along the swooning fence to a point where it had entirely collapsed. She clattered across the flattened section of pickets and approached Micky. “Do you believe in life after death?”
“I’m not sure I believe in life before death,” Micky said.
“I knew you were suicidal.”
“I’m not suicidal. I’m just a wiseass.”
Even after stepping off the splintered fence staves onto the grass, the girl moved awkwardly. “We’re renting next door. We just moved in. My name’s Leilani.”
As Leilani drew closer, Micky saw that she wore a complicated steel brace on her left leg, from the ankle to above the knee.
“Isn’t that a Hawaiian name?” Micky asked.
“My mother’s a little nuts about all things Hawaiian.”
Leilani wore khaki shorts. Her right leg was fine, but in the cradle of steel and padding, her left leg appeared to be malformed.
“In fact,” Leilani continued, “old Sinsemilla — that’s my mother — is a little nuts, period.”
“Sinsemilla? That’s a . . .”
“Type of marijuana. Maybe she was Cindy Sue or Barbara way back in the Jurassic period, but she’s called herself Sinsemilla as long as I’ve known her.” Leilani settled into a hideous orange-and-blue chair as decrepit as Micky’s bile-green lounge. “This lawn furniture sucks.”
“Someone gave it to Aunt Geneva for nothing.”
“She ought to’ve been paid to take it. Anyway, they put old Sinsemilla in an institution once and shot like fifty or a hundred thousand volts of electricity through her brain, but it didn’t help.”
“You shouldn’t make up stuff like that about your own mother.”
Leilani shrugged. “It’s the truth. I couldn’t make up anything as weird as what is. In fact, they blasted her brain several times. Probably, if they’d done it just once more, old Sinsemilla would’ve developed a taste for electricity. Now she’d be sticking her finger in a socket about ten times a day. She’s an addictive personality, but she means well.”
Although the sky was a furnace grate, although Micky was slick with coconut-scented lotion and sweat, she’d grown all but oblivious of the sun. “How old are you, kid?”
“Nine. But I’m precocious. What’s your name?”
“That’s a name for a boy or a mouse. So it’s probably Michelle. Most women your age are named Michelle or Heather or Courtney.”
“No offense intended.”
Leilani wrinkled her nose. “Too precious.”
“No wonder you’re suicidal.”
“Therefore — Micky.”
Micky cocked her head and frowned skeptically. “I’m not sure I should believe anything you tell me.”
“Sometimes names are destiny. Look at you. Two pretty names, and you’re as gorgeous as a model — except for all the sweat and your face puffy with a hangover.”
“Thanks. I guess.”
“Me, on the other hand — I’ve got one pretty name followed by a clinker like Klonk. Half of me is sort of pretty — ”
“You’re very pretty,” Micky assured her.
This was true. Golden hair. Eyes as blue as gentian petals. The clarity of Leilani’s features promised that hers was not the transient beauty of childhood, but an enduring quality.
“Half of me,” Leilani conceded, “might turn heads one day, but that’s balanced by the fact that I’m a mutant.”
“You’re not a mutant.”
The girl stamped her left foot on the ground, causing the leg brace to rattle softly. She raised her left hand, which proved to be deformed: The little finger and the ring finger were fused into a single misshapen digit that was connected by a thick web of tissue to a gnarled and stubby middle finger.
Until now, Micky hadn’t noticed this deformity. “Everyone’s got imperfections,” she said.
“This isn’t like having a big schnoz. I’m either a mutant or a cripple, and I refuse to be a cripple. People pity cripples, but they’re afraid of mutants.”
“You want people to be afraid of you?”
“Fear implies respect,” Leilani said.
“So far, you’re not registering high on my terror meter.”
“Give me time. You’ve got a great body.”
Disconcerted to hear such a thing from a child, Micky covered her discomfort with self-deprecation: “Yeah, well, by nature I’m a huge pudding. I’ve got to work hard to stay like this.”
“No you don’t. You were born perfect, and you’ve got one of those metabolisms tuned like a space-shuttle gyroscope. You could eat half a cow and drink a keg of beer every day, and your butt would actually tighten up a notch.”
Micky couldn’t remember the last time that she’d been rendered speechless by anyone, but with this girl, she was nearly befuddled into silence. “How would you know?”
“I can tell,” Leilani assured her. “You don’t run, you don’t power walk — ”
“I work out.”
“Oh? When was your last workout?”
“Yesterday,” Micky lied.
“Yeah,” said Leilani, “and I was out waltzing all night.” She stamped her left foot again, rattling her leg brace. “Having a great metabolism is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s not like laziness or anything.”
“Thanks for your approval.”
“Your boobs are real, aren’t they?”
“Girl, you are an amazing piece of work.”
“Thanks. They must be real. Even the best implants don’t look that natural. Unless there’s major improvement in implant technology, my best hope is to develop good boobs. You can be a mutant and still attract men if you’ve got great boobs. That’s been my observation, anyway. Men can be lovely creatures, but in some ways, they’re pathetically predictable.”
“You’re nine, huh?”
“My birthday was February twenty-eighth. That was Ash Wednesday this year. Do you believe in fasting and penitence?”
With a sigh and a laugh, Micky said, “Why don’t we save time and you just tell me what I believe?”
“Probably not much of anything,” Leilani said, without a pause. “Except in having fun and getting through the day.”
Micky was left speechless not by the child’s acute perception but by hearing the truth put so bluntly, especially as this was a truth that she had long avoided contemplating.
“Nothing wrong with having fun,” said Leilani. “One of the things I believe, if you want to know, is that we’re here to enjoy life.” She shook her head. “Amazing. Men must be all over you.”
“Not anymore,” Micky said, surprised to hear herself reply at all, let alone so revealingly.
A lopsided smile tugged at the right corner of the girl’s mouth, and unmistakable merriment enlivened her blue eyes. “Now don’t you wish you could see me as a mutant?”
“As long as you think of me as a handicapped waif, your pity doesn’t allow you to be impolite. On the other hand, if you could see me as a weird and possibly dangerous mutant, you’d tell me none of this is my business, and you’d hustle me back to my own yard.”
“You’re looking more like a mutant all the time.”
Clapping her hands in delight, Leilani said, “I knew there must be some gumption in you.” She rose from her chair with a hitch and pointed across the backyard. “What’s that thing?”
“Really. It’s a rosebush.”
“The potential’s there.”
“Hardly any leaves.”
“Lots of thorns, though,” Micky noted.
Squinching her face, Leilani said, “I bet it pulls up its roots late at night and creeps around the neighborhood, eating stray cats.”
“Lock your doors.”
“We don’t have cats.” Leilani blinked. “Oh.” She grinned. “Good one.” She hooked her right hand into an imitation of a claw, raked the air, and hissed.
“What did you mean when you said ‘all bets are off’?”
“When did I say that?” Leilani asked disingenuously.
“You said you’ve only got until your next birthday, and then all bets are off.”
“Oh, the alien-contact thing.”
Although that wasn’t an answer, she turned away from Micky and crossed the lawn in a steel-stiffened gait.
Micky leaned forward from the angled back of the lounge chair. “Leilani?”
“I say a lot of stuff. Not all of it means anything.” At the gap in the broken fence, the girl stopped and turned. “Say, Michelina Bellsong, did I ask whether you believe in life after death?”
“And I was a wise-ass.”
“Yeah, I remember now.”
“So . . . do you?” Micky asked.
“Do I what?”
“Believe in life after death?”
Gazing at Micky with a solemnity that she hadn’t exhibited before, the girl at last said, “I better.”
As she negotiated the fallen pickets and crossed the neglected sun-browned lawn next door, the faint click-and-squeak of her leg brace faded until it could have been mistaken for the language of industrious insects hard at work in the hot, dry air.
For a while after the girl had gone into the neighboring house trailer, Micky sat forward in the lounge chair, staring at the door through which she had disappeared.
Leilani was a pretty package of charm, intelligence, and cocky attitude that masked an aching vulnerability. But while remembered moments of their encounter now brought a smile to Micky, she was also left with a vague uneasiness. Like a quick dark fish, some disturbing half-glimpsed truth had seemed to dart beneath the surface of their conversation, though it eluded her net.
The liquid-thick heat of the late-August sun pooled around Micky. She felt as though she were floating in a hot bath.
The scent of recently mown grass saturated the still air: the intoxicating essence of summer.
In the distance rose the lulling rumble-hum of freeway traffic, a not unpleasant drone that might be mistaken for the rhythmic susurration of the sea.
She should have grown drowsy, at least lethargic, but her mind hummed more busily than the traffic, and her body grew stiff with a tension that the sun couldn’t cook from her.
Although it seemed unrelated to Leilani Klonk, Micky recalled something that her aunt Geneva had said only the previous evening, over dinner. . . .
“CHANGE ISN’T EASY, Micky. Changing the way you live means changing how you think. Changing how you think means changing what you believe about life. That’s hard, sweetie. When we make our own misery, we sometimes cling to it even when we want so bad to change, because the misery is something we know. The misery is comfortable.”
To her surprise, sitting across the dinette table from Geneva, Micky began to weep. No racking sobs. Discreet, this weeping. The plate of homemade lasagna blurred in front of her, and hot tears slid down her cheeks. She kept her fork in motion throughout this silent salty storm, loath to acknowledge what was happening to her.
She hadn’t cried since childhood. She’d thought that she was beyond tears, too tough for self-pity and too hardened to be moved by the plight of anyone else. With grim determination, angry with herself for this weakness, she continued eating even though her throat grew so thick with emotion that she had difficulty swallowing.
Geneva, who knew her niece’s stoic nature, nevertheless didn’t seem surprised by the tears. She didn’t comment on them, because she surely knew that consolation wouldn’t be welcome.
By the time Micky’s vision cleared and her plate was clean, she was able to say, “I can do what I need to do. I can get where I want to go, no matter how hard it is.”
Geneva added one thought before changing the subject: “It’s also true that sometimes — not often, but once in a great while — your life can change for the better in one moment of grace, almost a sort of miracle. Something so powerful can happen, someone so special come along, some precious understanding descend on you so unexpectedly that it just pivots you in a new direction, changes you forever. Girl, I’d give everything I have if that could happen for you.”
To stave off more tears, Micky said, “That’s sweet, Aunt Gen, but everything you have doesn’t amount to squat.”
Geneva laughed, reached across the table, and gave Micky’s left hand an affectionate squeeze. “That’s true enough, honey. But I’ve still got about half a squat more than you do.”
STRANGELY, here in the sunshine, less than a day later, Micky couldn’t stop thinking about the transforming moment of grace that Geneva had wished for her. She didn’t believe in miracles, neither the supernatural sort that involved guardian angels and the radiant hand of God revealed nor the merely statistical variety that might present her with a winning lottery ticket.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This was my 2nd most beloved story by Mr. Koontz, preceeded only by Watchers. I really think he hit the nail on the head with this one. I learned something, as I like to when reading for pleasure. Bioethics is completely opposite of what i believed it to be. Horrible, horrible. Have to admit this book was a little draggy in parts, but those parts were easily thumbed through. And I loved the ending, something I dont always do with Mr. Koontz' s novels. I didnt want the story to end. This one could perhaps convince the author to reconsider sequels.
As much as I like, to some high degree, every Koontz I've ever read, this is my favorite. I see some say it's slow; I see that, but when it dwells, I love whst is revealed. This book is his most optimistic, among msny optimistic books he:'s written. Comparable with his "Odd" series in its joy.
Leilani is one of my most favorite Koontz characters ever! Great storyline and very imaginative. I love the personification of the canine in the story! Dogs really do show us how to love.
Once you start this book, you will not want to stop until you reach the end. Then you will still want more.
I loved this book. A great story. I have read many of Dean Koontz books. I do enjoy Koontz books. Like many of Dean Koontz books this one, has mystery with many twists in the story. I wanted to jump in and protect the young one in the story. I cried, laughed and got angry! It is a real page turner. I have given this book to my friends and one to my son. Just didnt want the story to end. I will reread this one!!
I have lent this book to so many people that I had to buy a second copy of it for myself, and every single person who reads it loves it. I had a friend ask me a third of the way in if it was worth finishing, it did seem to take a long time to get there, but once there you feel so wonderful that you wish you took your time reading it instead of trying to rush through the "long" parts. This is not only my fav Dean Koontz book, but my fav of all the books I have ever read. This should be a movie!
Fell in love with the characters in the book. Very well written.
This novel absolutely just touching... it is an amazingly written story. You instantly get involved with the characters from chapter 1. You want to learn more about them and Just cant put it down. This is in my top 5 Koontz novels. It takes its a place side by side with Odd Thomas. Amazing!
this book is full of side stories and sends you for many twists and turns and MANY side trips in which shows how much our favorite author has time on his hands and he burns it!
I feel that saying anymore will make it dry and recomend you read it for yourself! Oh by the way the reason why the book cover got a 2 was because mine a early edition has a better cover.
THIS COVER SUCKS BUT THE PAGES WITHIN ARE GREATNESS!
Although is isn't Dean's best work, i enjoyed it. Yes, the story did drag on at times, but at other times the book was exciting and intense. The story of Leilani and Micky interested me the most. The two other stories lost my interest. The ending is fascinating and I would suggest this to anybody that likes science fiction, mystery, or even horror.
I have read this book 3 times now , not only is it suspenseful there were numerous times i couldn't control my laughter!
I just can't finish reading this book. One word: horrible.
How to review a book by such a superb writer? Dean Koontz has taken three story lines of such divergent subjects to parallel lengths where they diverge at an ending that tells us that only through the goodness of everyone working together can life be worth living. It's at once a theists against the bioethics of perfection and a fast passed thriller. But to describe how he does this only seems to demean his work. He has a deformed 9 year old girl, living with her drug addled mother and her murdering bioethics father; two wounded women trying to make a better life for themselves; a burnt out detective; and a young "extra-terrestrial" boy and his dog. Put these together and you have a strangely wonderful thrilling story. Koontz is probably the best writer than I know. He can take four beautiful sentences to describe someone's eyes, and rather than sounding wordy, every word feels necessary. I would say that this is my favorite Koontz book but then I read another one and that becomes my favorite. Just read this book. You won't be sorry. He makes very important points is convincingly beautiful stories.
Only 200 pages in but love it so far.there are four main characters of which only to have met each other, and they are quite a lot of fun so far,
Magnificent characters, inspiring story with just enough darkness to make you rejoice at the light! THIS IS A MUST READ!
This was a wonderful book by Knootz. The characters were colorful and interesting. The story-line hopeful and informative.