In ‘Death Valley’, the nameless author who narrates the book travels alone to a Best Western hotel in the desert to work on her book. Her father is hospitalized with a severe illness and her husband suffers from a debilitating chronic illness. While all of this could be unbelievably sad and depressing, Melissa Broder actually makes her main protagonist’s observations bitingly funny and sarcastic (“𝘔𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴 𝘢 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘴. 𝘚𝘩𝘦’𝘴 𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘤𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘢 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘑𝘦𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘴; 𝘣𝘢𝘥 𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘴. 𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘺 𝘢𝘯 𝘶𝘮𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘢: 𝘥𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵. 𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵: 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘰𝘰𝘯.“)
Yes, there is a giant cactus here with a doorway in its side. And the narrator talks to some rocks while lost on a hike in the desert. Yet I loved the narrator’s dark sense of humor and her dry wit. If you’re a fan of the author’s previous books The Pisces and Milk Fed, you will not be disappointed by this very keen observation on grief and survival.
Thanks to Scribner Books for the review copy!
About the Book:
The most profound book yet from the visionary author of Milk Fed and The Pisces, a darkly funny novel about grief that becomes a desert survival story.
In Melissa Broder’s astounding new novel, a woman arrives alone at a Best Western seeking respite from an emptiness that plagues her. She has fled to the California high desert to escape a cloud of sorrow—for both her father in the ICU and a husband whose illness is worsening. What the motel provides, however, is not peace but a path, thanks to a receptionist who recommends a nearby hike.
Out on the sun-scorched trail, the woman encounters a towering cactus whose size and shape mean it should not exist in California. Yet the cactus is there, with a gash through its side that beckons like a familiar door. So she enters it. What awaits her inside this mystical succulent sets her on a journey at once desolate and rich, hilarious and poignant.
This is Melissa Broder at her most imaginative, most universal, and finest. This is Death Valley.