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Wonder Valley

Review

Wonder Valley

In Ivy Pochoda’s WONDER VALLEY, the desert is a harsh and unforgiving place, with nowhere, literally or figuratively, to hide. And the city of Los Angeles is dangerous in its own ways, never quite providing the shelter, anonymity or respite that the characters need. Pochoda sets her story against these stark backdrops, and they heighten the lack of control her characters feel as the novel moves back and forth between 2006 and 2010 and the connections among six people become clear.

In 2006, teenage twins Owen and James are living with their parents on a desert chicken ranch at Twentynine Palms. Their father Patrick is a charismatic, if predatory, guru of sorts to a group of young “interns” who live and work on the ranch, participating in his twisted group therapy. College student athlete Britt is running away from a terrible accident and finds herself at Twentynine Palms, slowly but surely drawn in by Patrick. Though she watches how destructive a force he is --- to the interns and to his family --- she nevertheless is attracted to him and his ideas.

"WONDER VALLEY is a powerfully written page-turner, full of interesting and complex characters.... Both dreamy and gritty, this is an intense and often sorrowful and totally fantastic novel."

Just as Britt begins to settle in with Patrick and the others, Blake and Sam arrive. They are a duo of criminals on the run from the police and the ghosts of their past deeds. Sam, the older and more violent of the two, is seriously injured, and Blake, feeling not just indebted to him but emotionally dependent, will do anything to take care of him. Little does everyone know that there already is a connection among Blake, Sam and James, so the appearance of the dangerous pair introduces an extra layer of peril to an already tense situation.

In 2010, Ren has been recently released from juvenile detention, having served time for a terrible accident many years prior. He sets out from the east coast to the west to find the mother who abandoned him while he was locked out. He finds her living on the streets of Los Angeles and, while possessed of a certain clarity, not any healthier than she was when he last saw her. Like Blake for Sam, Ren is willing to risk so much to protect and care for his mother, even putting himself in jeopardy. Events in the past collide as Ren works and schemes to aid her, as he finds James after many years looking for him, and as Britt meets a man inspired by a sight he understands as an act of rebellion and freedom.

From run-down trailers and long-empty buildings to urban dive bars and suburban homes, Pochoda’s characters are desperate for resolution and peace.

WONDER VALLEY is a powerfully written page-turner, full of interesting and complex characters. Tested by circumstance and environment, they weave in and out of each other’s orbits as Pochoda brings the various strands of her tale together. Southern California smolders and is the perfect backdrop for the book’s themes of family and betrayal, loss and hope, transgression and redemption. Both dreamy and gritty, this is an intense and often sorrowful and totally fantastic novel.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on November 17, 2017

Wonder Valley
by Ivy Pochoda

  • Publication Date: November 7, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 006265635X
  • ISBN-13: 9780062656353