Valley of the Moon

Written by Melanie Gideon
Review by Thomas j. Howley

Lux is a single mom, with a penchant for making bad life decisions, living in the San Francisco area in the 1970s. She was born into a well-off family in picturesque Newport, Rhode Island and spent summers with her doting father at idyllic Lapis Lake in New Hampshire. Now she decides to send her young son, Benno, back to spend a few weeks with her parents. In his absence, she goes camping in the country, gets lost in a strange midnight fog, and stumbles into a rural commune, Greengage, which became stuck in 1906 during an earthquake.

This timeslip novel focuses on Lux’s interactions with her own family and commune members, and her trips back and forth between her present life and the past. “Time” is indeed the central theme, and as it passes, dramatic changes occur among Lux’s family and friends, building to a suspenseful climax.

For many the most engaging aspect of the book will be found in the gripping human interplay associated with trying to negotiate through the vagaries of slipping through time. The author addresses this weird phenomenon superbly. Other readers may find the preachy feminism in the first half of the book somewhat cloying. Lux has to balance existing in her politically correct, kumbaya life in Frisco with the work regimented, communal “utopia” of Greengage. After all, Joseph, the commune’s leader and Lux’s main interest, bluntly admits “work was our religion.” Despite these criticisms, this update of Brigadoon is recommended because of its well-crafted twists and thought-provoking insights into different times and cultures. Still, by the end of the book, some may agree with me that Lapis Lake was the real paradise.