Author Brandon Daily burst onto the scene in 2014 with his debut novel A Murder Country, which was met with critical acclaim and won him the Silver Medal for Georgia Author of the Year—First Novel. Any doubts that he would succumb to the dreaded sophomore slump were quickly laid to rest with the release of The Valley.
Set in the Appalachian Mountains, The Valley is nothing short of masterful in the way it uses five central characters to delve deeply into the dark, often insidious nature of what it’s like for the residents of Corvin Valley trying to make their way in an all too often harsh and chaotic world.
Through the eyes and lives of teenagers Graham and Quinn, who are experiencing their first love, Sheriff Leighton and Father Northrup, the town’s secular and spiritual bookends, and music teacher Adeline, a woman desperately searching for peace that seems forever just out of grasp, the town of Corvin Valley is brought to life in an exquisitely structured narrative.
Alternating between snippets that look in on each of the characters in present day, Daily slowly unspools the threads that are holding each to the valley as well as to one another, often in ways they are not even consciously aware of. Daily adds even more depth to the unspooling by weaving in flashbacks to events that have occurred in Corvin Valley through the years, events that have shaped who these characters have become, the impact of which may be impossible to outrun.
Two of the flashback sequences in particular provide the narrative heart and soul of The Valley. One, involving Adeline’s younger brother, Samuel—a boy who we would now know to be severely autistic, but at the time was just looked at as dim—serves as the deep-rooted example of how secrets from our past and guilt can weigh upon a person, forever coloring the way they look at the world and their ability to find peace in it.
The other involves a woman named Henrietta Slang, the woman who taught young Adeline to play piano. Though not a center-stage character, it was Henrietta’s story that impacted me—haunted me, would be fair to say—in a way I will not soon shake. The events surrounding Henrietta, a widowed black woman in the segregated South who dares fall in love with a white man, act as the conscience of The Valley, making a profound impact on the boy who grows up to be Sheriff Leighton.
Writing with a confidence it usually takes authors numerous books to achieve, if ever, Daily never once rushes things in this achingly elegant examination of lives where things may not be destined to turn out happily ever after, but where people still have the fortitude to strive for more in a world stacked against them.
The Valley is available from Knox Robinson Publishing.