Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda
Wonder Valley is the 2017 urban fiction by Ivy Pochoda. It was published here in the UK in September 2018 and I was honoured to have met Ivy Pochoda on her book tour in Piccadilly, London. She was so lovely and approachable and so graciously signed my copy of her book. This event as well as many others was hosted by my fellow books enthusiast friend, Laurenna from Festival America, of which you can read more about here.
Right off the bat, this book blew me away with its rawness and gritty realism. I loved the candidness, the unapologetic coarseness in the way Pochoda writes about desert life in Twentynine Palms and Skid Row; a side of L.A. unfamiliar with the glitzy glamorous superficiality of Hollywood and Beverley Hills. I love how socially aware this book is; it really gives voice to a very misrepresented demographic, by exploring their fears, their struggles and the circumstances that have forced them into acts of desperation.
This story’s strength is its characters, who have all done terrible things and who are searching for redemption, whose lives very cleverly and naturally interweave into a mouth-watering ending. The writing is atmospheric, placing you in the scene so vividly as though you were running alongside Tony on his morning jog, or walking alongside Sam and Blake in the oppressive heat of the desert.
I think the many time jumps and flashbacks were excellently articulated so as to gradually fill in the gaps and unravel the hopeful ending. The style of writing shifts in quality depending on the perspective being explored, for example with Ren and Blake, whose stories were written with the grit of street slang and vernacular. One part of Ren’s narrative stood out to me in particular;
“He tried to be good but the world treated him bad. He tried to atone and the world turned away./So what the fuck? What did he have to lose? Folks imagined he was bad – he might as well do bad…” pg 245.
Wonder Valley has to be one of the best books I’ve read all year; the characters are brilliantly developed, the story paces itself in a way that doesn’t drag but is dynamic and keeps you invested all the way through, the plot is believable and effortless, exuding rawness and depth. If you enjoy reading urban contemporary novels, you will revel in this one and for that reason I rate Wonder Valley..