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Fabulous Reads: Unique take on grief – inside a cactus

Book review - Death Valley by Melissa Broder

Death Valley, Melissa Broder, Bloomsbury (Jonathan Ball Publishers), ISBN: 9781526665201

DEATH Valley is truly a unique book. If you’re looking for something totally out of the ordinary to read that keeps you invested and fascinated, this book has a surprise for you.

A woman who is struggling with her father being close to death’s door and her husband’s long-term chronic illness, and the way they are impacting her emotions and life, escapes for a break by herself at a Best Western Hotel in the California high desert. She goes on a series of hikes in the desert, encountering and entering a large magical cactus (probably through some type of fever dream) which helps her to work through her inner demons in a most unusual and sometimes painful way.

I could not put this book down. Written in first-person point of view, this book takes us deep into the psyche of someone struggling with pre-emptive grief, the burden of caregiving and fear of the future and her own struggles with self-esteem. The author makes us feel authentically connected to her story and feelings.

Death Valley is a mix of literary fiction, poetic prose, fantasy, adventure and a type of narrative fiction. It’s a short and fascinating read. I did find, at times, the inner thoughts of the protagonist a little hard to understand, especially near the beginning of the book, but it improved. There is an interesting twist in the second half of the book which I will keep mum so as not to give away a spoiler. – 4/5 stars – Kathy Bosman

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