I was drawn to this book because it sounded like an interesting cross between Brigadoon and The Time Traveler’s Wife. Though it isn’t precisely a romance, it works well as women’s fiction, and is one of the more pleasant surprises I’ve gotten as I’ve begun to review again. It’s taken me a while to write down my feelings about this book, but it’s one that has definitely lingered in the back of my mind.
It’s 1975, and Lux is, for all intents and purposes, kind of a mess. She’s raising her five-year-old son, Benno, alone in 1975, because she got pregnant thanks to a one-night stand with a soldier before he went off to war. Her relationship with her parents is strained, but she adores Benno, and she wants him to know his grandparents. So she sends him to stay with them for a couple of weeks, and takes herself off to Valley of the Moon State Park in California. There, she encounters a mysterious fog, which, when she passes through it, takes her to a place outside of time.
Greengage Farm was a prosperous farm, founded on utopian values by a man named Joseph, who wanted a place where all work was valued, where men and women could be treated equally, and everyone could enjoy communal living. It hasn’t always worked for him, but it’s his dream. However, the farm seems to be stuck in 1906, during the big San Francisco earthquake that takes place that year. They’re out of touch with everyone from the outside world until Lux stumbles into their farm from 1975.
From there, Lux begins to live a double life. In Greengage, no one has expectations on her that she’s going to be a big screw-up. They accept her for who she is and treat her like one of their own. Most importantly, she strikes up a friendship with Joseph. But she can only spend so much time at Greengage, because time outside flows much more differently than time in Greengage.
The core of this novel is Lux’s emotional journey. Even she is the first to admit to herself and the readers that she’s kind of a mess. Joseph and the people at Greengage teach her that she should expect more from herself, and gradually she begins to blossom into a mature, caring woman. I find Lux a deeply flawed but incredibly sympathetic character, and I love going on her journey with her. I also suspect the book would resonate much more strongly with readers who are mothers, but as it is, I think her relationship with Benno is beautifully rendered, and I find her struggles with her father deeply moving as well.
The romance builds up slowly over time, but it’s not really a factor until the second half of the story. Lux has a lot of growing up to do before she can fall for Joseph, and he has some struggles of his own as well. I wasn’t entirely sure how the romance would even work, considering both characters are stuck in different times, but fear not, the book does end on a happy note, and it’s resolved to my satisfaction.
Valley of the Moon never explains the paranormal aspects of its plot. Normally, this would have bothered me, but Melanie Gideon is such a gifted storyteller that I let everything unfold, never questioning anything, and never being drawn out of the book so that I would even want to. The pages flew by quickly, and she hit me with a few gut-punches that I didn’t see coming, but which I thought made sense for the book. When I closed it, I found myself smiling, mostly satisfied with everything that happened to get the characters to the end. I’m eager to see what Ms. Gideon writes next.
The author of the critically acclaimed Wife 22 has written a captivating novel about a love that transcends time—perfect for readers of The Time Traveler’s
Wife, Time and Again, and the novels of Alice Hoffman.
San Francisco, 1975. A single mother, Lux Lysander is overwhelmed, underpaid, and living on the edge of an emotional precipice. When her adored five-year-old
son goes away to visit his grandparents, Lux takes a solo trip to Sonoma Valley—a chance to both lose herself and find herself again.
Awakened at midnight, Lux steps outside to see a fog settled over the Sonoma landscape. Wandering toward a point of light in the distance, she emerges
into a meadow on a sunny day. There she meets a group of people whose sweetly simple clothing, speech, and manners almost make them seem as if they are
from another time.
And then she realizes they are.
Lux has stumbled upon an idyllic community cut off not only from the rest of the world but from time itself. The residents of Greengage tell a stunned
and disoriented Lux that they’ve somehow been marooned in the early twentieth century. Now that she has inexplicably stepped into the past, it is not long
before Lux is drawn in by its peace and beauty.
Unlike the people of Greengage, Lux discovers that she is able to come and go. And over the years, Lux finds herself increasingly torn between her two
lives. Her beloved son is very much a child of the modern world, but she feels continually pulled back to the only place she has ever truly felt at home.
A gorgeous, original, and deeply moving novel about love and longing and the power that time holds over all of us, Valley of the Moon is unforgettable.
Praise for Valley of the Moon
“The literary equivalent of a farm-to-table delicacy: lovingly handcrafted, delectable and transcendent, becoming more than just a tasty appetizer but
a full-course experience of love and time and all the mystical beauty that the region has to offer.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Beautifully written . . . [Valley of the Moon is] a wonderful story about belonging, love and the aching certainty that there’s something more out there.
. . . Sure to appeal to fans of Time and Again or The Time Traveler’s Wife.”—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“Magical, cinematic . . . Valley of the Moon is breathlessly romantic and alive with the love of language.”—Sarah Addison Allen
“An enjoyable magic carpet ride . . . Two narrators, separated by nearly a century, tell a tale of old-time charm and contemporary agita.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Captivating . . . reminiscent of Brigadoon.”—Booklist
From the Hardcover edition.
No excerpt available.