JOURNEY TO THE WEST VALLEY WALL by Mark L Lloyd

JOURNEY TO THE WEST VALLEY WALL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this novel, a Canadian author battles to overcome agoraphobia and depression to complete his third book.

Jack is a sci-fi writer living in Penticton, British Columbia. He has produced two novels that have gained him a small but ardent fan base. It is five years since he completed his last book, which ended with its main character, Sage Sauer, being confined to a “stasis chamber.” Since then, Jack has suffered from writer’s block, causing him to obsess over one particular paragraph, which prevents him from crafting more. His agoraphobia and depression have also steadily intensified, meaning that he divides his time among his home, where he lives with his best friend, Shelly; his psychiatrist’s office; and a local coffee shop, the Green Beans Café. Although he’s frightened of attempting anything more ambitious than a short walk from his apartment, his doctor has been preparing him for an unthinkable journey across town to his sister’s house, located on the West Valley Wall. The novel tracks Jack’s odyssey, from the moment Shelly tosses him over her shoulder and bundles him into their Mustang to the life-altering events that occur after he watches his 12-year-old niece, Tessa, for his sister. Lloyd (Burning the Last Bridge, 2017) understands the debilitating restrictions and negative mind chatter faced by agoraphobics to the extent that he captures their essence in one simple passage. Jack confesses to Shelly: “I just feel like avoiding everything in life because life stresses me out. I want to hide and not deal with it.” The author is also able to pinpoint the irrational but terrifyingly real feelings that escalate anxiety into a panic attack: “I just feel unsafe, and I don’t know why. I know these surroundings; I grew up around them. It’s not a new environment….It just doesn’t make any sense, and it’s probably not supposed to.” Nevertheless, the message of the stirring story is positive. Despite their chilling nature, Jack addresses his fears head on and begins to reap the benefits—psychologically, socially, and in terms of his literary output. This is an intuitively written book that should beguile most readers, particularly those who have had similar mental health experiences.

A quirky and perceptive psychological tale with an unexpected, jolting twist at the end.

Page count: 222pp
Publisher: Tellwell
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2018




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