The most profound book yet from the visionary author of Milk Fed and The Pisces, a darkly funny novel about grief that becomes a desert survival story.

Chronic illness/medical content, death, grief.

In Melissa Broder’s astounding new novel, a woman arrives alone at a Best Western seeking respite from an emptiness that plagues her. She has fled to the California high desert to escape a cloud of sorrow—for both her father in the ICU and a husband whose illness is worsening. What the motel provides, however, is not peace but a path, thanks to a receptionist who recommends a nearby hike.

Out on the sun-scorched trail, the woman encounters a towering cactus whose size and shape mean it should not exist in California. Yet the cactus is there, with a gash through its side that beckons like a familiar door. So she enters it. What awaits her inside this mystical succulent sets her on a journey at once desolate and rich, hilarious and poignant.

This is Melissa Broder at her most imaginative, most universal, and finest. This is Death Valley.

Don't just take our word for it...

“Bursting with jokes, abounding with existential crisis, Broder again puts forward her absurdist, provocative philosophy.”
– Bustle, Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2023

“Think the Chronicles of Narnia, but instead of a wardrobe, it’s a cactus.”
– Cosmopolitan

“A journey unlike any you’ve read before. Death Valley is a beautifully wild leap into the mysterious desert that is grief.”
– Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Chain-Gang All-Stars and Friday Black

Taste the very first page

I pull into the desert town at sunset feeling empty. I felt empty the whole drive from Los Angeles and hoped that my arrival would alleviate the emptiness, so when the emptiness is not alleviated, not even momentarily (all emptiness-alleviators are temporary), I feel emptier. 

“Help me not be empty,” I say to god in the Best Western parking lot. 

Since I don’t turn to god very often, I feel self-conscious when I do. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to ask for, and I worry that I shouldn’t want the things I want. Are my requests too specific? I should probably ask to simply be happy doing god’s will, though I’ve heard it said that when you’re doing god’s will you feel like you’re flowing with a great river, not against it, so it seems like the happy feeling should just come naturally. 

Earlier today, a friend texted me a quote by Kierkegaard: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” 

Ordinarily, I’d do nothing more than mark this kind of text message with a heart, maybe respond with the word yesss, and move on. But because of the low place I’ve been in, I saw the quote as a life raft, as though I were a small version of me adrift in a bowl of milk and the quote was the lone Cheerio I had to grab onto. 

Halfway between LA and the desert town, I stopped at a…