In the Heart of the Valley of Love


Cynthia Kadohata explores human relationships in a Los Angeles of the future, where rich and poor are deeply polarized and where water, food, and gas, not to mention education, cannot be taken for granted. There is an intimate, understated, even gentle quality to Kadohata's writing?this is not an apocalyptic dystopia?that makes it difficult to shrug off the version of the future embodied in her book.

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Cynthia Kadohata explores human relationships in a Los Angeles of the future, where rich and poor are deeply polarized and where water, food, and gas, not to mention education, cannot be taken for granted. There is an intimate, understated, even gentle quality to Kadohata's writing—this is not an apocalyptic dystopia—that makes it difficult to shrug off the version of the future embodied in her book.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Confirming the talent she demonstrated in her praised first novel, The Floating World , Kadohata's new book is a chilling vision of the 21st century, conceived with prescient imagination and rendered in lean, evocative prose that blossoms into stunning images. The book's narrator is 19-year-old Francie, who lives in a futuristic Los Angeles divided into ``richtown,'' where the white people have virtually barricaded themselves, and the slums where the nonwhites who make up the majority of the population attempt to avoid starvation and disease. This is a world where the government is repressive but ineffective, where violence is endemic, where people ``had long ago stopped rioting for change. Now they rioted for destruction.'' Everyone carries a gun; water and gas are rationed; ``the stars are faded by pollution''; and morality has given way to a mixture of fear, numbness and cynical self-protection. Francie, whose dead parents were Chinese, Japanese, and black, is part of the ethnic underclass. She shares a small house with her Auntie Annie and her aunt's lover, Rohn; the latter, however, mysteriously disappears as the book begins--undoubtedly arrested for engaging in the illegal ``delivery'' trade of black-market merchandise. Kadohata creates a coherent picture of a deteriorating society on a dying planet through a mosaic of quotidian details, delivered by Francie in the passive, detached manner of one who has become accustomed to a meaningless existence. Yet when Francie falls in love with Mark, like herself a college student, she gradually recovers the sense of possibility in her life, and begins to understand love's power to redeem and engender hope. As timely as this week's news, yet with the enduring value of literature, this novel speaks simply but eloquently of the human spirit's capacity to survive. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Best-selling author Kadohata here presents an even less stable world than she did in her first novel, The Floating World (Viking, 1989). Her protagonist, Francie, searches for love and meaning amid the breakdown of social and moral order in a 21st-century Los Angeles dominated by riots, smog, gun-toting young men, and an oppressive, authoritarian government. It is particularly disturbing to read this novel in the aftermath of the rioting that followed acquittal in the Rodney King case, for clearly all the elements of Kadohata's chillingly evoked Los Angeles are already in place. The evocation of place aside, the novel doesn't have much ``heart'' to it. The characters are sometimes flat, and the plot development is a little on the drab side. Still, this is recommended as an effective depiction of what the future might hold. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/92.--Cherry W. Li, Dickinson Coll. Lib . , Carlisle, Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
In an acutely moving second novel, Kadohata (The Floating World, 1989) again records the spin of worlds—of pain or maybe love. Some of it makes sense; some of it does not. ("Is the world as wiggly for you as it is for me?") The time is 2052 in L.A., decaying in a disintegrating landscape where the stars have faded behind pollution, disease is common, raw violence is on the rise, and the gap between castes, government, police and people turning feral is unbridgeable. A 19-year-old Japanese-American woman hopes to survive. Narrator Francie leaves her aunt after the aunt's boyfriend has been arrested. She enjoyed observing their love, but "with people dying or getting hated to love people." Francie decides on college for something to do and works on the college paper. Here are her first friends in L.A. Besides Mark, soon to be her lover, there are: a former gang member, a misfit, a slapdash version of an investigative reporter, a minor celebrity who may or may not be a murderer, and Jewel, the chief editor, dying of cancer, who at first can't shake loose from an abusive lover. With Mark, Francie visits elders and a tattoo artist (tattooing is a proud matter like "challenging God"), notes death and dyings, travels about, bribes with gas and water "creds," while here and there Francie finds things to admire—a bead, lovemaking, an infrequent blue sky. At the last Francie and Mark will pay tribute to people dead, and with the last rays of sunlight hustle away from a gathering mob. Kadohata's 2052 L.A. is a strangely familiar worst scenario of environmental and political doomsayers, and it's darkly illuminated here by grandly scary to theatrical conceits. ButKadohata locates within the "melancholy, fatigue and disappointment" the tender heart of love—buried deep. A beautifully crafted novel that warns and hurts and delights.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520207288
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/1997
  • Series: California Fiction Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the novel The Floating World. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker and Grand Street. She is the recipient of a 1991 Whiting Writers Fellowship and lives in Los Angeles.

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