The Happy Valley
by Benjamin Harnett
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Pub Date 30 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2023
In this "heavily immersive" (Kirkus) kaleidoscopic voyage through the past, present, and future of the United States, a young girl uncovers a secret society, a middle-aged man searches for his lost first love, a group of teens invent a role-playing game, protests threaten to topple the government, and an eccentric lawyer and his young Vietnamese protégée re-open a dormant case.
"A knotty, philosophical mystery dense with lingering regrets." -Kirkus
In the early 1990s in Harmony Valley, a rural, Upstate New York village faded from its 18th and 19th century heyday, a group of teens engaged in an idiosyncratic role-playing game cross paths with June, a mysterious girl whose family has deep roots in the area, and Clyde Duane, a janitor who makes weekly visits to a strange room-the headquarters of a secret society-opening its door with a golden, serpent-headed key. Meanwhile an eccentric Utica lawyer pulls his young Vietnamese protégée into their firm's special case, which stretches back to the 1840s.
Decades later, in 2034, as the United States is breaking apart and a new way of life taking shape, June has disappeared. The mystery of her disappearance inspires a journey back to "The Happy Valley," and a reevaluation of the past that exposes the dark personal and societal secrets betraying our founding myths.
This atmospheric mystery, at turns gothic, poetic, cerebral, and funny, ranges from rural New York to the outer reaches of the Zebulon Galaxy; from the 1700s to the 4th decade of the 21st century.
The novel is 412 pages, with 66 full-page b&w illustrations by the author that "recall the excitability of middle-grade stories" (Kirkus), and includes an Appendix with a Timeline, and a detailed Reading Group Guide.
A Note From the Publisher
Every good book should have a playlist. Here's THE HAPPY VALLEY: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1643EYPh8lFb10hcKS4O51
"Heavily immersive ... A wistful work that reflects both the uncertain child and the nostalgic adult ... A knotty, philosophical mystery dense with lingering regrets." -Kirkus
"Fabulous and engaging ... richly creative!" -Glenda Burgess, award-winning author of So Long As We're Together
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Average rating from 4 members
I had to sit with this one a while after finishing, to let it all coalesce in my mind. This is a story told in a present day and an alt-future America, which also reaches tendrils into the past. The narrative skips back and forth in time, always from the first person perspective of the narrator, who along with the reader, must carefully piece together what he believes to be true, sifting through cryptic clues, trying to weigh his assumptions, and navigating some truly trippy experiences. It's a long wild ride, with lots of stops and starts and quite a few red herrings along the way. This one is for the thinkers.
Well, now. This is one of those unclassifiable novels that will grab your brain and not let go - or have you scratching your head but reading anyway just to see what happens next. And in an alternate America - all of it - that could be anything. Take a chance.
I’m not really sure what I just read, but I am sure it was an enchanting read. Maybe the book was dosed (thanks to that spooky vial) and this has all been one weird trip. Living in western/upstate New York reading about local areas is always a bit odd in itself. Even more so when the plot is slightly fictionalized. Move over alternate history, here comes alternate future history.
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Edited by Taylor Randolph