Death Valley

Scribner. Oct. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781668024843. $27. F
Broder (Milk Fed) has written a weird and wacky treatise on grief. The protagonist is an author trying to complete her newest novel while dealing with serious family issues. Her husband has been debilitated by an undiagnosed illness for years; her father was in a terrible car accident several months earlier but has cheated death twice while remaining mostly unresponsive in the ICU; her mother deals with it all by adhering to strict superstitions. The protagonist hits the road, leaving Los Angeles, and heads to the desert, where she is delighted to find a room in her favorite hotel chain, Best Western. Written in the first person, the novel’s first half details the protagonist’s journey to this point. The second half is a stream of consciousness of her visit to the desert, hallucinating an enormous cactus and going inside it; very much an escape from reality. The humor is bleak, the metaphors strong, and her grief palpable. The meandering story finally arrives at a somewhat surprising, almost heartfelt ending.
VERDICT Buy for demand only. For the literary sophisticate; read-alikes include the works of Banana Yoshimoto and Jeffrey Eugenides.
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