A comic novel about grief that becomes a story of survival in the California desert, by the highly-acclaimed author of So Sad Today, Milk Fed, and The Pisces.
DEATH VALLEY: A Novel
by Melissa Broder
Scribner, Fall 2023
(via The Gernert Company)
In DEATH VALLEY, an unnamed woman arrives in the California desert seeking respite. Holding herself at bay and temporarily deserting her own life seems preferable to being filled by the anticipatory grief chasing her — both for a father attempting to recover from a near-fatal accident and a husband whose chronic illness is worsening. What the desert provides, however, is not inner peace but a path: a receptionist-recommended nearby hike. On this desert trail, the narrator encounters a towering cactus whose size and shape mean it should not exist in California. Yet the cactus is there. It is wounded. Its gaping injury beckons like a familiar door. So, she enters it. What this woman finds inside this mystical succulent is enough to make her believe her load can lighten. When she returns to the trail, however, the cactus is gone and in seeking it, she suddenly is more lost than ever before. Whether she can survive, and be reunited with all she found to live for while inside her cactus is up to what she is able to seek within herself. With no phone battery left to tell her where she is, whether her father is still alive, or whether her husband will be waiting if she returns, what’s written on her heart alone is her only map out.
Melissa Broder is the author of the novels Milk Fed and The Pisces, the essay collection So Sad Today, and five poetry collections, including Superdoom: Selected Poems (Summer 2021) and Last Sext. Broder has written for The New York Times, Elle.com, VICE, Vogue Italia, and New York Magazine‘s The Cut.