Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz (2016)
You know you are in Dean Koontz territory when a miraculous golden retriever appears in the first chapter.
A blurb on the inside fly leaf of Ashley Bell calls this Koontz's "most personal novel yet." Perhaps so, but mainly this is a story about a valiant girl and the power of imagination.
Bibi Blair, a twenty-three-year-old surfer girl and budding writer with several important sales to her credit, has suffered great torment in the past, even though she cannot remember them. Those memories have been erased from her mind through a means she cannot fully understand, but allowing her to continue through her life unscathed.
One day, her body turns on her. She imagines terrible smells, Her limbs stop working and then start again. At times she loses the capacity to speak. A trip to the emergency room revveals that her has a large cancerous, spider-like growth in her brain, an advanced and extremely rare form of cancer for which there is no cure. She has perhaps two months to live -- a year at most with aggresive radiation and chemotherapy treatments. But since she was six-years-old, Bibi has lied her life as a valiant girl...no, make that a Valiant girl with an upper case V; a determined girl who was "plucky, intrepid, and lionhearted -- a girl who knew that life was never easy but you faced challenges head-on with the power of goodness and knowledge. Valiant girls do not give up. They may lose but they do not give up. When given her dreadul diagnosis, bibi said, "We'll see."
That night in her hospital bed, after her cancer had made several debilitating attacks on her body, she sees the figure of a man entering her room from the corner of her eye. With the man is a dog, a golfden retriever. The dog goes up to Bibi and nuzzles her, then the man and the dog leave. The next morning when Bib wakes up a burden has been lifted. She instinctively knows that her cancer is gone and subsequent tests prove this. Hospital security cameras show that a man and a dog had walked the cameras that night and were recorded entering and leaving Bibi's room, but there is no record of them ever entering or leaving the hospital.
How was Bibi cured and why?
Later, a psychic tells Bibi that she was cured in order to save the life of someone named Ashley Bell. This begins a dangerous search to find Ashley Bell, a search that pits her against a murderous neo-Nazi and his far-spread murderous cult. Along the way she faces inexplicable events, supernatural beings, and a twisting of reality.
At 560 pages and more than a hundred chapters with alternating viewpoints, Ashley Bell is one of the author's longest books -- a twisty, winding, teasing novel that pulls the reader along, cheering for Vliant girls everywhere.