Fall Book Club: Death Valley 📚
A lively discussion for Melissa Broder's singular, trippy novel
Editorial note: Alisha is on maternity leave. In the meantime, Downtime is edited by Aliza Abarbanel.
I hope everyone enjoyed reading Death Valley by Melissa Broder as much as I did! Broder continues to amaze me—this story is psychedelic and strange, terrifying and sad, funny and heartbreaking. In coping with her ailing father and perpetually sick husband, our unnamed narrator takes a trip to the desert to escape her life and work on her novel, settling into the sterile and corporate comfort of a Best Western. She ventures out onto a trail where she finds a seemingly mystical cactus, wherein she copes with her grief, reckons with death and dying, and communes with past versions of her father.
The second part of the novel felt dizzying—the terrifying solitude of the desert, the feeling of lostness, the inability to make sense of reality, a reckoning with her own mortality, the need for water, her feral commitment to survival. As someone who once backpacked through Death Valley, I could see the landscape Broder so deftly described, feel the coldness of the night. I loved how it was so hard to make sense of what was truly happening to her and what was a figment of her imagination—how she was saved by a bird, sought guidance in talking rocks, and found solace in a disappearing/reappearing cactus.
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