Death Valley

A Novel

English language

Published June 5, 2023 by Scribner.

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4 stars (1 review)

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.

2 editions

Review of 'Death Valley' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Thanks so much to the publisher for providing me an advanced reader copy of this book.

Having not read anything by the author before, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was really happy to find that Death Valley worked really well for me. We follow our unnamed protagonist, an author, in the throes of grief as her father is in the hospital doing poorly. She deals with days of care taking and medical emergencies that she can't seem to escape because her husband also deals with chronic illness. She decides to take a brief retreat to the desert, staying at a prototypical yet eccentric Best Western (a personal favorite of myself as well), where she's recommended a local hiking trail through the desert. On these hikes she comes face to face with physical manifestations of her grief, phantom cacti, children, and personified rocks. And also she gets lost. …