Celia is a director of an art gallery. Having lost her parents in an auto accident as a young teen, she spent her tumultuous high school years with a emotionally hardened but determined grandmother, a grandmother who not only has very high standards morally but expects Celia to follow suit. When Celia rebels and leaves for good, she finds herself in later years regretting her treatment of her grandmother and wishing she had another chance.
Fast forward several years, and now in the beginning chapters of “Some Dark Valley”, Celia finds herself back home again to attend her grandmother’s funeral and close up the house she inherited. As she reaps what she has sown in the mistakes and moral failures of her life, Celia has decided to keep her personal relationships brief and distant. Although always longing for a home and family of her own, she closets her real self within, trying to find comfort in her own ‘space’.
“Face your fear.’ That’s what Todd has said that came back to her now. He had tried repeatedly to probe into her past, wanting her to ‘open up her shell,’ as he called it, but she had always managed to elude his questions.’
Celia has some tough memories to overcome in her past.
“… she had remained very still with her eyes closed, picturing herself standing in a large field, digging for more pleasant memories with a little silver pickax. Over and over she lifted the pickax and brought it down. Surely there were multitudes of other good memories underneath all the bad ones. She even imagined that she heard the soft plunging sound of the pickax as it sank into the loose soil, little glints of mica and quartz chips flying up with every stroke.
And, happily, she at last began to see the pickax uncover what she took to be more good memories…”
Like most of her novels, the main character will have some hoops to jump through in order to find a resolution to the hardships in her life.
The reader has to decide whether Celia’s fears and avoidance of her grandmother are legitimate, or not.
“After they ate that night, Grandmother took out some plastic grocery store bags and divided up all those berries, every last one. Then they walked up and down Old Campground Road delivering them to all the neighbors. Grandmother kept one bag for herself. One bag out of probably twelve or fourteen. The next day she made one blackberry pie and two jars of preserves. Not much to show for all that hot work under the July sun.”
This book started out a little slow for me, but soon picked up and I found myself really wanting to know if Celia would ever be able to come to terms with her grief and remorse. This author really has a talent for bringing characters to life and not glossing over the hard questions we all struggle with. Her honesty within the context of fiction is not only refreshing but saturated with authentic snapshots of the tragedies within life.
I think I would have given this book five stars had the point of view not changed from Celia to Bruce in the second half of the book. I found myself wanting to see the resolution more from her viewpoint as I had bonded with her throughout the book.
‘Some Dark Valley’ comes close to being one of my favorites from this author. Although called ‘too introspective’ by some, I thoroughly enjoyed the soul-searching that the main characters undergo in this latest book I have read. Jamie Langston Turner is fast becoming one of my favorite reads (and I am obviously on a JLT kick!)
Eldeen, the one of-a-kind quirky character who never stops talking resurfaces, but only briefly, in this latest episode in the Derby Series. As Celia meets and interacts with her neighbors, tennis team players, and cautiously begins to make friends, the reader is pulling for her all the way, hoping that in the end, Celia will find closure and contentment.
The message (or theme if you will) of this book can be found in the last few chapters.
“Given sun and rain, a flower will bloom. To the human heart, love is irresistible. Though I have not solved the mystery of suffering, I have felt the healing work of love.”