For fans of Emily St. John Mandel, David Mitchell, and Kazuo Ishiguro, an exquisite literary speculative novel set in an unnamed valley, where bereaved residents can petition to cross a forbidden border to see their lost loved ones again.
THE OTHER VALLEY
by Scott Alexander Howard
Atria/Simon & Schuster, February 2024
(via Frances Goldin Literary Agency)
Sixteen-year-old Odile Ozanne is an awkward, quiet girl, vying for a coveted seat on the Conseil. If she earns the position, she’ll decree who among the town’s residents may be escorted deep into the woods, who may cross the border’s barbed wire fence, who may make the arduous trek to descend into the next valley over. It’s the same valley, the same town. But to the east, the town is twenty years ahead in time. To the west, it’s twenty years behind. The only border crossings permitted by the Conseil are mourning tours: furtive viewings of the dead in towns where the dead are still alive.
When Odile recognizes two mourners she wasn’t supposed to see, she realizes that the parents of her classmate Edme have crossed the border from the future to see their son while he’s still alive in Odile’s present. Edme—who is brilliant and funny, and the only person to truly know Odile—is about to die. Sworn to secrecy by the Conseil so as not to disrupt the course of nature, Odile finds herself drawing closer to her doomed friend—imperilling her own future.
Masterful and original, The Other Valley is an affecting modern fable about the inevitable march of time and whether or not fate can be defied. Above all, it is about love and letting go, and the bonds, in both life and death, that never break.
Scott Alexander Howard lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, where his work focused on the relationship between memory, emotion, and literature. The Other Valley is his first novel.