Review: In the Heart of the Valley of Love

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  • Topic: Novel, Annie and Clarabel, Future
  • Pages : 5 (2045 words )
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  • Published : November 7, 2010
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The Novel
In the Heart of the Valley of Love is set in a future Southern California of the mid-twenty-first century. It centers on the experiences of Francie, a young Japanese American girl of that time, and her family and friends. The story is told in the first person and is divided into sixteen short chapters. In the Heart of the Valley of Love begins with the narrator and protagonist, Francie, driving through the Mojave Desert in the company of her Auntie Annie, who has taken care of her since the death of her parents. With them is Annie’s boyfriend, Rohn. On their way to the desert, they had been stopped by a highway patrolman, but Rohn had bribed the officer to let them go. Despite this incident, the three people in the car are having a good time as they speed eastward. In the scarcity of this projected twenty-first century, such necessities of life as water are jealously hoarded and dearly priced. When Rohn is offered an opportunity by an enigmatic man named Max the Magician to buy some water, he agrees with alacrity. The entire water purchase, though, is a trick played by the authorities, with Max as either tool or dupe. Rohn is arrested and carted off to an unknown locale. Even though Auntie Annie is far senior to her in years, Francie feels a responsibility to take care of her aunt in the wake of Rohn’s disappearance. Having weathered many travails during her life, Francie sees herself as supremely adaptable. Francie reflects on the death of her parents. They had known that they were dying and had been understandably bitter. This bitterness, however, was laced with bursts of sincere optimism. The memory of her parents’ courage lends Francie the strength to persevere even after the upsetting episode of Rohn’s kidnapping. Francie enrolls in a local two-year college that serves primarily the underprivileged classes. Here, she develops a circle of friends for the first time since she had moved to California from Chicago in her early teenage years. Among these is Mark Trang, a fellow student who becomes her boyfriend, and Jewel, an older woman who becomes the unofficial leader of the group. Jewel is involved in an abusive relationship with a real-estate agent named Teddy. When Teddy is arrested, Jewel, accompanied by Francie, bails him out. Francie works part-time in a law office, but her primary efforts are concentrated upon school, especially her work on the school newspaper. She realizes that, because of the class stratification in twenty-first century America, she will never be permitted to be a member of the social elite, who are isolated in heavily garrisoned “richtowns.” She is nevertheless determined to make the best of her life. Her relationship with Mark deepens as they realize that they share many experiences, beliefs, and values. Mark and Francie go together to visit Jewel’s parents, Hank and Emmy. Hank recounts a time in his long-ago childhood, in the year 2000, when he had walked with his father to a secluded arroyo unblemished by the overpopulation and technology rampant even then in the region. He wonders why his father had taken him there. Mark and Francie go to be tattooed by Carl, a friend of Mark. For the couple, it is a kind of ceremony, a ritual of self-affirmation against the prescriptive norms of society. They become involved in trying to help Matt Burroughs, a fellow student accused of murder. They attend a rally on his behalf, and Francie becomes close to Matt’s mother, Madeline, after interviewing her for the school paper. Matt, however, betrays all of his supporters by skipping bail; he may also have killed his mother. Francie and Mark also become involved in trying to expose a school administrator, James Goodman, who is soliciting prostitutes from among the students. When Goodman kills himself, however, they decide not to publish the evidence they have. Rohn has not returned, but Auntie Annie still holds out hope. Francie agrees, especially because the riots that overtake Los Angeles after...
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