Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda

Wonder Valley

When a teen runs away from his father’s mysterious commune, he sets in motion a domino effect that will connect six characters desperate for hope and love, set across the sun-bleached canvas of Los Angeles.From the acclaimed author of Visitation Street, a visionary portrait of contemporary Los Angeles in all its facets, from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific, from the 110 t...

Title:Wonder Valley
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Edition Language:English

Wonder Valley Reviews

  • Diane S ☔

    A man is running down the Hollywood freeway, he is completely nude, seemingly without a care in the world. As the cars sit in the usual crawling traffic, another man, a man on impulse will leave his car sitting in traffic and take off running, following the naked man. This is the beginning of this novel, which will take us from the streets of Los Angeles, to skid row and out to a desert commune with a divergent group of characters.

    THey are lost souls, trying to escape either something the have d

    A man is running down the Hollywood freeway, he is completely nude, seemingly without a care in the world. As the cars sit in the usual crawling traffic, another man, a man on impulse will leave his car sitting in traffic and take off running, following the naked man. This is the beginning of this novel, which will take us from the streets of Los Angeles, to skid row and out to a desert commune with a divergent group of characters.

    THey are lost souls, trying to escape either something the have done, or do not understand where their lives took a wrong turn, hopeful still that they can turn it around. Gritty and powerful story telling at its best. Street people and the fierce way they guard their spots, try to look out for each there. A commune run by a man who says he has answers, a healer of the physche, a married man with two twin teenage sons. Two drifters, with a capacity for violence and a man who can't escape a past mistake. All will come together, their stories converge in strange ways. All want to survive, to thrive though all will not be given the chance.

    For those squeamish about the killing of chickens, though they are killed for food, I suggest skimming chapter four. Other than that I found this book to be wonderfully written, a dark yet hopeful street read. It reminded me in tone and feeling of

    , though this is contemporary and not post apocalyptic.

    ARC from book browse.

  • Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!

    Eleanor Rigby – John Lennon / Paul McCartney

    Shock Value. Violence. Overcrowded freeways, overcrowded lives. Living on the edge, physically, mentally, financially, and what follows when they break away. Life beyond the edge, beyond rules.

    The man runs down the freeway, he has shed all but his skin and his inner self, running as though he is not surrounded by cars stuck in yet anoth

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!

    Eleanor Rigby – John Lennon / Paul McCartney

    Shock Value. Violence. Overcrowded freeways, overcrowded lives. Living on the edge, physically, mentally, financially, and what follows when they break away. Life beyond the edge, beyond rules.

    The man runs down the freeway, he has shed all but his skin and his inner self, running as though he is not surrounded by cars stuck in yet another 7 a.m. traffic jam in L.A., but rather free from it all, free of all cares. He is naked, and it’s 2010, cellphones with cameras abound, so it becomes news, of course.

    Inside one of those cars sits another man, a man who missed his hour run that morning, and is flexing his calves, wishing that missed hour back. He undoes his seatbelt, opens his door, leaves his keys and begins to run, trying to catch up with the naked runner.

    East of Los Angeles, west of Phoenix, north of Joshua Tree National Park is Wonder Valley. It’s hot and arid, a parched landscape, relatively unpopulated, but enjoys the benefit of proximity to Joshua Tree, with mini versions of Vegas found in surrounding places. A mish-mash of buildings, private land and Bureau of Land Management property, with no evidence of modern day planning, or any thought for what goes where, populated by eclectic residents, artists, low-income / retirees, people seeking peace, quiet, and an escape from the desire for more of everything. Twentynine Palms, home of Howling Tree Ranch, is about a 14 mile drive across desert away from Wonder Valley.

    Howling Tree Ranch is owned by Grace and Patrick, a married couple with twin teenaged sons, James and Owen. The ranch is a commune, of sorts, a gathering of young people who have come searching for a new life, a new way of life. Answers. Life in the desert, an arid wasteland, populated by those seeking “The Truth,” seeking redemption, seeking a path to the future and a way to leave their pasts behind. They want to shed their former selves, be free of all that has encumbered them, and leave all that has defined them to those who still inhabit their past. In exchange, these young people become interns to Grace and Patrick, but it’s Patrick, with his wisdom and healing, who they seek.

    This alternates between these places, Los Angeles, Wonder Valley and Twentynine Palms, with two time frames, and through the eyes of various characters. The year 2006 in Wonder Valley and Twentynine Palms, and 2010 in Los Angeles.

    I loved the way all of these characters and their stories came together, tantalizingly measured, with Pochoda showing us why and how these individuals ended up living these lives so far from customary or conventional. And, once again, she has given me an ending I did not see coming until it was unfolding before me.

    We can’t imagine all that those we don’t know have been through, all that they’ve survived, or know those things that have crushed their souls. How one small, seemingly innocent move could be the beginning of the fall of a house of cards, how one small step in the wrong direction leads to a lifetime lived in fear, steeped with regrets, or shame, with no home or family to turn to, no help in sight. No way out.

    Of note:

    For those squeamish about such things, there is a chapter that deals with a chicken slaughter (Chapter 4), which you might want to skim over.

    For those who prefer their novels with as little profanity as possible, this might push your buttons as there are segments where it’s sprinkled more liberally than others, however it didn’t bother me, and I felt it was used realistically.

    Pub Date: 18 Oct 2017

    Many thanks for the ARC provided by Harper Collins / Ecco

  • Mainlinebooker

    Written with raw energy and palpable emotion, this gritty novel covers the disappearance of a teenage boy twin who runs away from his father's "spiritual" commune like structure, leading to exposing the stories of several other characters who are enterwined with one another.The story begins with a naked runner running down the California freeway with and against the traffic. A terrific hook to get the reader wanting to explore the mystery of his mission. Is he mentally disturbed? Does anyone kno

    Written with raw energy and palpable emotion, this gritty novel covers the disappearance of a teenage boy twin who runs away from his father's "spiritual" commune like structure, leading to exposing the stories of several other characters who are enterwined with one another.The story begins with a naked runner running down the California freeway with and against the traffic. A terrific hook to get the reader wanting to explore the mystery of his mission. Is he mentally disturbed? Does anyone know him? From here ,other parallel stories are told which end up intersecting with his. The author had an uncanny ability to describe life on the streets, including memorable dialects and character portrayals that made me thoroughly enjoy her easy writing style. Its simplicity belies the difficulty of writing this prose. A moving story that illustrates the desperation and uncovering of the need to follow what you think is your course in life only to find that perhaps it has been in a different direction all along.

  • Chelsea Bashore

    I received this book as an ARC from Book of the Month, but in no way was my opinion influenced.

    This book was so wonderful. Set in current L.A it sort of gives you that Lalaland feel ( except gritty and less music). The setting is gritty and completely believable. The story weaves through our main characters lives past and present, and leaves use with a journey that helps you debate what it means to be a good person, how events can grip your life and run your head-space, and also leaves you just

    I received this book as an ARC from Book of the Month, but in no way was my opinion influenced.

    This book was so wonderful. Set in current L.A it sort of gives you that Lalaland feel ( except gritty and less music). The setting is gritty and completely believable. The story weaves through our main characters lives past and present, and leaves use with a journey that helps you debate what it means to be a good person, how events can grip your life and run your head-space, and also leaves you just contemplating your own self.

    Definitely worth reading, if you aren't into the sadness and absurdity of the story at least you'll be pulled into the vivid character experiences.

    (Also side note, lately I feel like all my good books/tv shows deal with twins, what is up with that?)

  • Alexander Davidson

    Six lost characters find their way as their stories converge during one man's streaking on a California highway. Basically all of these character's are running from something in their past towards new lives they just can't seem to grasp. Britt tries to escape a world of college partying and disappoint but ends up on a chicken farm in the middle of a desert. Twins Owen and James dream of leaving the hippy compound where their father is a mystical healer. Blake is on the run with his buddy Sam as

    Six lost characters find their way as their stories converge during one man's streaking on a California highway. Basically all of these character's are running from something in their past towards new lives they just can't seem to grasp. Britt tries to escape a world of college partying and disappoint but ends up on a chicken farm in the middle of a desert. Twins Owen and James dream of leaving the hippy compound where their father is a mystical healer. Blake is on the run with his buddy Sam as the two criminals try to make their way out of one problem and into the next. Ren is newly released from juvie and crosses the country to look for his runaway mother. Tony feels stuck and wishes he was as free as the naked running man he witnesses on his way to work.

    Eventually, all of these characters come together on their journey in an interesting way to find their way in life. I only wish it happened sooner. This is one of those books where you really like the overall effect of the book when you've finished reading, but you still remember the first half of the book when you sat there wondering when something was ever going to happen. First, not every character has an interesting and relatable story line, so there are some chapters you are trying to get through to finally end up on a character you do like. And the characters are not all people you feel like you are "rooting for" as you read. There's no sense of attachment or care about whether or not they really will find their way or solve their problems. The first hundred pages or so is a lot of exposition that readers will have to make their way through to finally get to some of the interesting connections and overlaps. And finally, I feel like I would be more forgiving of the novel overall if it weren't for the fact that this was a (hopefully) unedited advance copy of the work. It was very rare to find a chapter that didn't have a handful of spelling, punctuation, or grammatical mistakes that made the experience way more frustrating than it needed to be. For example, in a novel of dual timelines in 2006 and 2010, there's a random mislabeled 1994 chapter (#27) that is obviously still in 2006. These little moments end up having a big effect for detail-oriented readers like myself. I'm assuming a cleaner publication would put me in a better peace of mind when reading in order to overlook some of my previously mentioned criticisms.

    This is one of those books where you finish it, go back to the beginning of the novel, reread the first chapter, and say, "Ah, I see what you did there. Well done." However, in order to appreciate the work overall, you first need to make it to the interesting chapters towards the end.

  • Diane Hirt

    Although I enjoyed the ability the author provided for the reader to step into the seamy side of LA and the desert, I could not get pulled into the characters. A bit of a trudge to stick with it. I wanted so much for it to be engaging.

  • Aleta

    Really loved this book. The writing was beautiful and vivid, primarily in describing scenery. The settings were so clear in my mind, from the desert to skid row to the traffic jam on 110 (although, it's impossible not to overlay the prologue of this novel on the opening scene from La La Land!). The interweaving of the stories was excellently accomplished, with purpose to each decision in plot and character's actions. The whole story has a sort of noir-cloud without being an actual mystery or sus

    Really loved this book. The writing was beautiful and vivid, primarily in describing scenery. The settings were so clear in my mind, from the desert to skid row to the traffic jam on 110 (although, it's impossible not to overlay the prologue of this novel on the opening scene from La La Land!). The interweaving of the stories was excellently accomplished, with purpose to each decision in plot and character's actions. The whole story has a sort of noir-cloud without being an actual mystery or suspense novel. (read as an ARC from BOTM. Numerous typos to the point of being distracting and misleading, but I'm assuming those will be fixed by publication).

  • karen

    review to come, but DAMN.

    damn.

    **********************************************

    my new

    has arrived!!

    so many treasures! i am going to dive into this super-soon. there's no explanation about why pochoda chose her book's buddies, and i'm kind of hoping that the leonard cohen book has nothing to do with her own and is just there because this month marks the one-year anniversary of his death, and she's mourning along with me.

  • Lou

    This tale starts the pace with a retrospective look on one morning in suburbia stuck in traffic whilst man running in a kind suit or lack of suit.

    Some fine writing within, in the thick of that first scene and has you hooked in the need to know, the undoing of the scene how did the tale get to that timeline in all the wonder.

    Over the timeline of 24 hours there are many journeyings in Los Angeles starting with the bizarre one of a man running to or from something, then the chapter shifts to anothe

    This tale starts the pace with a retrospective look on one morning in suburbia stuck in traffic whilst man running in a kind suit or lack of suit.

    Some fine writing within, in the thick of that first scene and has you hooked in the need to know, the undoing of the scene how did the tale get to that timeline in all the wonder.

    Over the timeline of 24 hours there are many journeyings in Los Angeles starting with the bizarre one of a man running to or from something, then the chapter shifts to another time line 4 years past in a middle of nowhere desert with all sort of rituals and possible tomfoolery with a motley crew of eager interns with father mother and two sons as lead.

    Journeys, findings, doings and undoings and mystery in the mix of it all with crafted showing and revealing, keeping the reader on in tow, and like a magician the author careful unravels and let’s some things out some names, connecting dots, connect things visible and invisible connect.

    Memorable reading of a retrospective observations of downtown/suburbia/desert/wonder valley sometime present sometime nowhere in the vastness of the desert something propelled.

    review with excerpts @

  • Roxane

    I wanted to like this book because I love a gritty Los Angeles novel. There are so many perspectives on this city and I am always curious to see how different writers imagine it. Pochoda is an excellent writer. She is really good, perhaps too good at creating atmosphere. Whether in downtown LA, Beverly Glen, or the California desert, she captures a vivid sense of place and the people who inhabit that place. But this is a fairly one-dimensional view of LA. Is this city as bleak as it is portrayed

    I wanted to like this book because I love a gritty Los Angeles novel. There are so many perspectives on this city and I am always curious to see how different writers imagine it. Pochoda is an excellent writer. She is really good, perhaps too good at creating atmosphere. Whether in downtown LA, Beverly Glen, or the California desert, she captures a vivid sense of place and the people who inhabit that place. But this is a fairly one-dimensional view of LA. Is this city as bleak as it is portrayed here? Yes, but it’s also a lot more. Then again, a novel doesn’t need to capture the whole truth. It needs to capture a truth. I suppose I question how well this captures a truth. Everyone is deeply tan, weather beaten, lean and ropy, etc,, with few exceptions. So much loving attention is paid to showing how worn down by the landscape these characters are that not enough attention is paid to the story itself. This is one of those stories where there are a bunch of different characters who are somehow connected but the connections are just… really forced. For one of the characters, Tony, the connection is overly situational and tenuous. His existential ennui is somewhat clichéd--the overextended middle class man. Okay. We get it. Everything is hardscrabble and terrible and after a while it becomes numbing. When the novel ended, I felt deflated but not because I had been so affected by the book but more because I felt so disaffected. The ending was something of a letdown after so much build up. But still, I did keep reading. I do admire the writing, the characterization, the way this book feels so thoroughly inhabited.

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