Wonder Valley


Ivy Pochoda
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When a teenager runs away from his father’s mysterious commune, he sets in motion a domino effect that connects a cast of six characters who narrate Wonder Valley.

There’s Ren, just out of juvie, who travels to LA in search of his mother. There’s Owen and James, teenage twins who live in a desert commune, where their father, a self-proclaimed healer, holds a powerful sway over his disciples. There’s Britt, who shows up at the commune harbouring a dark secret. There’s Tony, a bored and unhappy lawyer who is inspired by the runner. And there’s Blake, a drifter hiding in the desert, doing his best to fight off his most violent instincts.

Their lives will all intertwine and come crashing together in a shocking way, one that could only happen in this enchanting, dangerous city.


‘Wonder Valley is destined to be a classic L.A. novel. From desert scrub to cold blue sea, it carries an eloquent yet hard-edge take on the contradictions of a place so difficult to define. It’s impossible to put down.’
—Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author

‘A vision of Southern California that is at once panoramic and intimate… This novel paints an unforgettable portrait of people who long, above all else, for community and connection.’
—Edan Lepucki, author of California

‘Wonder Valley seethes with the vivid, searching idea of Southern California. But as the intersecting journeys of hippie acolytes, restless hoods, lost boys and all manner of runaways converge, Pochoda enacts a aching dream of home that will possess and haunt you.’
—Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek

Dimensions: Demy paperback with french flaps
Length: 341 pages
Published: 20 September 2018
ISBN: 978-1999683344
Cover design: © House of Thought

Publicist: Susie Nicklin at The Indigo Press
Agent: Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge & White
Foreign rights: The Marsh Agency

About the author

Ivy Pochoda is a novelist and writer, previously a world ranked squash player. Her novel Visitation Street was chosen as an Amazon Best Book of 2013 and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and won the 2018 Strand Critics Award for Best Novel.

She has written for a number of outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books and The Huffington Post. She teaches creative writing at the Lamp Arts Studio in Skid Row.

Her book, Wonder Valley, was published in September 2018.

Wonder Valley

Los Angeles, 2010

He is almost beautiful – running with the San Gabriels over one shoulder, the rise of the Hollywood Freeway as it arcs above the Pasadena Freeway over the other. He is shirtless, the hint of swimmer’s muscle rippling below his tanned skin, his arms pumping in a one-two rhythm in sync with the beat of his feet. There is a chance you envy him.

Seven a.m. and traffic is already jammed through downtown, ground to a standstill as cars attempt to cross five lanes, moving in increments so small their progress is nearly invisible. They merge in jerks and starts from the Pasadena Freeway onto the Hollywood or the Santa Ana. But he is flowing freely, reverse commuting through the stalled vehicles.

The drivers watch from behind their steering wheels, distracted from toggling between radio stations, fixing their makeup in the rearview, talking to friends back east for whom the day is fully formed. They left home early, hoping to avoid the bumper to bumper, the inevitable slowdown of their mornings. They’ve mastered their mathematical calculations – the distance x rate x time of the trip to work. Yet they are stuck. In this city of drivers, he is a rebuke.

He runs unburdened by the hundreds of sacrifices these commuters have made to arrive at this traffic jam on time – the breakfast missed, the children unseen, the husband abandoned in bed, the night cut short on account of the early morning, the weak gas station coffee, the unpleasant carpool, the sleep lost, the hasty shower, last night’s clothes, last night’s makeup.

He ignores the commuters sealed off in their climate-controlled cars, trapped in the first news cycle and the wheel of Top 40. He holds a straight line through the morning’s small desperations, the problems waiting to unfold, the desire to be elsewhere, to be anywhere but here today and tomorrow and all the mornings that run together into one citywide tangle of freeways and on-ramp closures and Sig Alerts, a whole day narrowed to the stop and go.

His expression is mid-marathon serene, focused on the goal and not yet overwhelmed by the distance. He shows no strain. But the woman in the battered soft-top convertible will say he looked drugged. The man in a souped-up hatchback claims he was crazy-high, totally loco, you know what I mean. A couple of teenage girls driving an SUV way beyond their pay grade insist that, although they barely noticed him, he looked like a superhero, but not one of the cool ones.

The day is an indeterminate, weatherless gray. The sun is just another thing delayed this morning. Beneath the 10, the air over the bungalows of West Adams and Pico-Union is a dull, apocalyptic color. The color of bad things or their aftermath.

The other city – the remembered and imagined one – stretches west, past the sprawling ethnic neighborhoods where Koreans overlap with Salvadorans and Armenians back into Thais. It begins on the big-name crosstown boulevards lined with deco theaters, faded tropical motels, and restaurants with sentinel valets, and ends where the streets run into the ocean. But in this trench where the 110 sinks through downtown, that place is barely a memory. Here there is only the jam of the cars and the blank faces of the glass towers.

The runner is on pace for an eight-minute mile or so it seems to the man behind the wheel of his SUV who woke up late and didn’t have time for his own jog. He missed his pre-dawn tour of Beverlywood, the empty silence of the residential neighborhood when he visits other people’s cul-de-sacs, peering into the living rooms of dark houses as his pedometer records his footsteps, marking calories and distance until the morning’s ritual is complete. He wonders what went unseen – coyotes slinking home before sunup, a car haphazardly left in a driveway after one too many, a man sleeping in the blue glare of his TV, a teenager sneaking through her back gate, liquor bottles shoved into bags and left at someone else’s curb. During these stolen hours before his wife and kids need him, he believes he glimpses his neighborhood’s secret soul, seeing beyond the façades of the bungalows and the manicured squares of unremarkable lawns into hidden discontents.

There is never anyone to encourage him on his early morning runs, no one to witness his labored breathing in the sixth mile, his heroic triumph over his ebbing willpower. Watching the runner navigate the stationary cars, this driver is aware of the jellied muscles of his own legs after a weekend’s drinking.

He wants to reach back for the hour he cheated from himself, when he lay in bed and instead of lacing up his shoes, rolled over, checking the clock to see how long before others needed him. Without his run, today will belong to the commuters in their cars, to the team waiting for him at work, and now to this shirtless jogger cutting through traffic on the 110.

He rolls down his window and wedges his torso out to watch the runner pass. The man’s mechanics aren’t bad – his chest upright, shoulders relaxed, hands not balled into fists. He cups a hand over his mouth, shouting at the man to keep going. Then he sees that the runner is naked. He pulls back inside, raises the window, and busies himself with his cell phone, moving on to the next thing in his day.

Shirley Whiteside for Book Oxygen, 20 September 2018: ‘Review: Wonder Valley’

Fatima Azam for Washington Independent, 26 January 2018: ‘Wonder Valley: A Novel’

Lisa Alexander and Julia Lichtblau for The Common, 26 January 2018: ‘Review: Wonder Valley’

Smith Henderson for The Los Angeles Review of Books, 1 January 2018: ‘Genre Be Damned: Smith Henderson interviews Ivy Pochoda

Michael Natalie for The Brooklyn Rail, 17 December 2017: ‘Structures in Service to Wonder: Ivy Pochoda’s Wonder Valley’

Jane Gayduk for Interview Magazine, 14 November 2017: ‘Ivy Pochada’s new novel is an ode to the misunderstood parts (and people) of California’

Michael Schaub for The Los Angeles Times, 10 November 2017: ‘Wonder Valley is an L.A. thriller that refuses to let readers look away’

National Public Radio, 10 November 2017: ‘Author Interview: In ‘Wonder Valley’ There’s More Than One Los Angeles’

David Canfield for Entertainment Weekly, 10 November 2017: ‘Ivy Pochoda’s Wonder Valley is a mesmerizing California novel: EW review’

Kristopher for BOLO Books, 7 November 2017: ‘Wonder Valley – The BOLO Books Review’

Thane Tierney for Book Page, November 2017: ‘Wonder Valley’

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