I am from Fresno – the city which is the subject of much of the disdain the author has in the book, Valley Fever. This is the story of Ingrid who is a farmer’s daughter from Fresno and who, along with her sister Anne, have tried to escape Fresno as soon as they could. Ingrid is a writer, I think. She has lived all over the world. The hitch with Ingrid is that once she has a bad experience somewhere (e.g. a breakup), she cannot go back. London, Paris, Berlin, New York and, now, Los Angeles are firmly off her list.
After her latest break up she comes home to the family farm, where her father is a typical farmer – a quiet man who works hard and does what is right. Her mother is…well, odd. I could not figure out whether she had a little bit of anxiety, dementia, or something else. And the end did nothing to end my wondering. Annie is separating from her husband, Charlie, because Annie cannot have children. Annie is the bossy older sister.
The book is brimming with an interesting cast of characters and references to places that, if you are from Fresno, will ring familiar. The story plods along at a leisurely, but not slow, pace. I really, really wanted to like this book. And I really, really tried to like this book. But, I did not like this book. Here’s why.
First, I understand that most people who are from Fresno or have heard of Fresno have a negative connotation of it. We are always the butt of jokes. I get that. I did not expect so much of it from this book. Her descriptions of the vineyards and farm land are lovely. But her descriptions of Fresno and its surrounding communities, I found lacking.
Second, there were so many things left unsaid that I found it unsettling and hard to follow sometimes. Conversations were not fully developed and sometimes the characters speak in a code they are privy to the meaning of, but the reader is not. I did not like the flow or style of the writing for the most part. But there were some places in the book where Ms. Taylor really wrote well.
I did like Ingrid, for the most part. She came home and did what she was supposed to do. But Ms. Taylor did a very good job of not making it seem like Ingrid did not want the burden or was not up to the task of taking over the family farm. Ingrid was smart and she stood up for herself with whomever she needed to. I liked that about her very much.
I also liked some of the supporting characters, like her first love George Sweet and her friend Bootsie Calhoon. Both were interesting characters, though I wish they could have been more fully developed.
Like I said, I really, really wish I would have liked this book more than I did. I am sad that I didn’t. I might have been hoping for too much. While I recognize the need to escape from Fresno and the jokes are sometimes all-too-real, it is my home and I would have liked to have seen it portrayed in a more positive light.
I won this book from Goodreads. I was not paid in any way for my review and the thoughts expressed herein are mine and mine alone.