The novel The Valley and the Flood is Welcome to Nightvale meets Kentucky Route Zero meets Big Fish.
The Valley and the Flood is about trauma – it starts and effectively ends there. That isn’t really a critique. We arrive into town in a car with Rose Colter and her baggage; her grief and loss is the central pivot for the plot. It isn’t the sole point of course. Everyone in Lotus Valley, the primary location for The Valley and the Flood has something in their past that haunts them to some degree. That is the reality of living. It isn’t really a spoiler to say that Rose Colter has found herself far from home because she cannot deal with the anniversary of the death of her best friend, Gaby. She arrives in Lotus Valley and finds that with her, she brings with her the promise of destruction and the end of Lotus Valley as it exists now. This is the driving force of The Valley and the Flood.
The novel could easily get lost in its own fantasy world if it weren’t for its characters. Rose Colter. The prescient Cassie, the third best prophet in Lotus Valley. The sheriff and her scared interns. Even the ever-present ghost of Gaby, a memory if nothing else, bears its own weight. Lotus Valley is a land on its own crossroads between the normal and the paranormal “neighbors,” unknowable entities that attach themselves to humanity in a sort of symbiotic relationship. In Lotus Valley these two groups cohabit, however oddly.
The Valley and the Flood is a magical realist novel that sits astride the boundary between young adult and adult fantasy; the conflicts, the loss of a friend principal among them, are certainly not tied to any specific age group. Rose is incapable of forgiving herself for something she holds no responsibility for, and in this you have the kind of thing that shows the youth of its protagonist and their first real trial with grief.
Young adult fiction has an association with plucky young female protagonists fighting the power, usually steeped in some sort of angst, mostly from the years that the Hunger Games was dominant in popular literature. Whether or not you qualify The Valley and the Flood as YA, it does have a late teenage protagonist at the cusp of heading to college, who has to work to maybe save a little corner of the world. But it does stretch those definitions to their furthest extensions to the point where it is not recognizable as what most readers would identify as YA.
Rebecca Mahoney proves herself to be a deft writer overall, creating a world that is defined by both its rich characters and its distinctive backdrop. It’s a lovely book, about not erasing traumatic moments from your life, but learning to live with them. It’s an excellent book, and worth a read.
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