Wonder Valley was on many Best of 2017 lists, and had some high praise on it's book jacket from Michael Connelly saying it was "destined to be a classic L.A. novel." Since I pretty much have read every book Connelly has written, I decided that I would pick this up without knowing much about it. I thought going in the story would end up being a mystery / thriller novel since it was recommended by Connelly, but it wasn't. It was more of a character study.
The book jumped between 2006 and 2010 and did so on chapter cuts. When I read novels, I try to jump ahead in my mind to see how they are going to tie things together, but I could never tie together what was happening in 2006 and 2010 until Pochada did it for me. I liked that since it kept me wondering what was coming next. Pochada did a great job weaving between four major plot lines and making sure they were all connected.
Plot Line 1: Tony, the suburban husband who isn't quite sure where his life is going. (2010)
Plot Line 2: Blake and Sam, two lifelong criminals that are on the run in the California desert.
Plot Line 3: The Twentynine Palms commune, a group of "interns" who are following the teachings of a preacher, Patrick. Patrick's wife and twin sons also live there, but they are not part of the commune.
Plot Line 4: Ren, a young man out of juvenile detention, trying to get to Los Angeles to find his mom and bring her back home to New York.
The plot weaves in and out of these four stories, and brings them all together in a cohesive manner. But what the story was really about was character and personal growth and how each character changed or didn't given the circumstances surrounding what occurred.
Unfortunately for me, I thought the way the book ended was a little bit of a weakspot.
The book ended with a focus on the character it started with, Tony. But Tony wasn't the focus of the book. The book focused on the interns, Ren, and Blake & Sam. These were the characters I was actually interested in. And yes, the ending did give Ren his trip to the ocean and highlighted his ability to find peace in the ocean and his art. But it used that as a way to make peace in Tony's mind. It felt like this conclusion was weak, and that Tony shouldn't be able to get peace this easy when he wasn't involved in the actual plot of the story. He was just someone latching on to what he saw was the freedom of mind from a naked man running down the 101.
Quick Review: 3 out of 5 stars.