Death Valley: A Novel (Hardcover)
October 2023 Indie Next List
“A hike becomes a metaphysical journey straight into the center of grief, featuring literature’s most memorable cactus. Broder delivers us directly to the site of the wound and somehow makes us want to linger. Beautiful, exciting, and profound.”
— Kristen Iskandrian, Thank You Books, Birmingham, AL
The most profound book yet from the visionary author of Milk Fed and The Pisces, a darkly funny novel about grief that becomes a desert survival story.
In Melissa Broder’s astounding new novel, a woman arrives alone at a Best Western seeking respite from an emptiness that plagues her. She has fled to the California high desert to escape a cloud of sorrow—for both her father in the ICU and a husband whose illness is worsening. What the motel provides, however, is not peace but a path, thanks to a receptionist who recommends a nearby hike.
Out on the sun-scorched trail, the woman encounters a towering cactus whose size and shape mean it should not exist in California. Yet the cactus is there, with a gash through its side that beckons like a familiar door. So she enters it. What awaits her inside this mystical succulent sets her on a journey at once desolate and rich, hilarious and poignant.
This is Melissa Broder at her most imaginative, most universal, and finest. This is Death Valley.
About the Author
Melissa Broder is the author of the novels Milk Fed, The Pisces, and Death Valley, the essay collection So Sad Today, and five poetry collections, including Superdoom. She has written for The New York Times, Elle, and New York magazine’s The Cut. She lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @SoSadToday and @MelissaBroder and Instagram @RealMelissaBroder.
"Extremely funny and deeply felt." —People
"One of the best books I’ve read in years: funny, brilliant, gutting, and easily devoured over the course of one blissful afternoon." —Elle
"Broder takes her absurdist humor to new heights as she spins a surrealist tale of emptiness, exploration and existential crisis in the California desert." —W Magazine, Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2023
“Think the Chronicles of Narnia, but instead of a wardrobe, it's a cactus.” —Cosmopolitan
“Death Valley is one of the funniest, most tender stories I’ve read about improbable cacti, dying fathers, and desert survival skills . . . a nuanced and authentic portrayal of grief.” —Locus Magazine
"Bursting with jokes, abounding with existential crisis, Broder again puts forward her absurdist, provocative philosophy." —Bustle, Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2023
“An exhilarating meditation on death, life, survival and how we rely on stories to get us through it all. It’s a triumph for Broder.” —Book Page (starred review)
"Infectious and dreamy. . . . Broder’s narrator is consistently companionable. . . . Readers ought not to miss this magical tale of survival." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“As wise in its way as any spiritualism about vision quests or finding enlightenment. . . . A 100 percent Broder take on grief and empathy: embodied but cerebral, hilarious but heart-wrenching." —Kirkus Reviews
“A journey unlike any you’ve read before. Death Valley is a beautifully wild leap into the mysterious desert that is grief.” —Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Chain-Gang All-Stars and Friday Black
"Death Valley is a glorious mirage of a book. This is a mischievous and moving novel of prickly wonders, where the indignities of life are monumental, and the inanimate world only comes alive in the lonely glow of loss. Broder's writing is a brilliant, zany compass, leading us from the sorrow of existence toward the hilarity of someday having to die." —Hilary Leichter, author of Temporary
"Darkly funny and full of exuberant, pitch-perfect sentences, Death Valley is also a glorious departure for Melissa Broder: a heartrending exploration of daughterhood, a deep dive into anticipatory grief, and a hardcore story of survival. Broder's unforgettable new novel is vulnerable, witty, trippy, and conceptually dazzling all at once—a brilliantly inventive book from an absolutely brilliant writer." —Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light: Stories
“I’ve never read a novel that portrays grief quite like Death Valley. Melissa Broder captures both the punishing ordinariness of loss while also showing us how extraordinary it is to have been here at all. There is deep wisdom in these pages.” —Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes and The Half Moon