Thursday, August 18, 2016

Valley of the Moon

Title:  Valley of the Moon
Author:  Melanie Gideon
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2016. 416 pages.
ISBN:  0345539281 / 978-0345539281

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The smell of buttered toast was a time machine."

Favorite Quote:  "Time is a construct, one we all  inherently begin to abide by the moment we are born. Yes, we will live our days hanging from its invisible scaffolding. Morning. Noon. Night. Weeks. Months. Years. Time civilizes us. It brings order to chaos. Without it, there isn't any gravity, and no longer pinned to the world, we float away."

Chick lit meets science fiction in the Valley of the Moon. In 1906, Joseph and his wife Martha have built a community in California named Greengage. The community could be called a commune or an attempt at a utopia, with its base in shared labor, shared resources, and communal living. In 1975, Lux is a single parent, struggling to make ends meet. Somehow, their two worlds meet.

The facts of this story remind of an old story called Brigadoon. Both center upon a town that becomes visible and accessible only at certain times. Individuals from two time periods meet, and relationships begin. In this case, Lux stumbles upon Greengage, a community that finds itself encased in a fog that is toxic should a Greengage resident enter it. Lux, however, can travel through the fog with no harm. Time in 1906 Greengage and 1975 California seems to move at different speeds.

Lux finds herself drawn back to Greengage again and agin. In her time, she is struggling with single parenthood, economic hardship, and family conflicts. In 1906, she finds a sense of community and a place to belong. She seems to be able to have the best of both worlds. She can spend time in Greengage and return to find only a short period elapsed in her present life.

Of course, things are never as simple as them seem. Complications ensue, both in 1975 and in 1906. The cycle of Lux's travels between the two times continues. Further complications ensue. And so on. That is pretty much the entire book. The buildup and the climax is predictable and not at all surprising. To some extent, nothing much happens in the book.

This book has many loose ends, the biggest being Joseph's childhood and Lux's teenage years and her relationship with her father. The book begins with a description of the trauma of Joseph's childhood. However, other than the name of his adult home, the book never references that background again. Lux's relationship with her father features throughout the book, but it seems to be a separate story from the main plot; the main plot could still be the same without that entire portion in the story. These are aspects of the book that just seem to be there; nothing much ever comes of them.

The book is told in the alternating voice of Lux and Joseph. The biggest issue for me is the fact that I find neither character particularly sympathetic or even likable. Lux's descriptions of her childhood, her commentary about her father, her lack of professionalism at her job, her use of her friend's generosity, and her choice to escape into another world regardless of repercussions for her or her young son all create the picture of a self-centered, self-indulgent adult. I can appreciate her need for an escape and her desire for a place to belong, but not at the expense of her responsibility to her child. Joseph is the more likable of the two, but his character is static and somewhat flat. As with the plot, he is just there; nothing much is developed about him.

Chick lit meets science fiction is an interesting approach. The Brigadoon myth in a viable premise. Unfortunately, this telling of that story is just not for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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