The Happy Valley
In this "heavily immersive" (Kirkus) kaleidoscopic voyage through the past, present, and future of the United States, a young girl uncovers a secret society, a middle-aged man searches for his lost first love, a group of teens invent a role-playing game, protests threaten to topple the government, and an eccentric lawyer and his young Vietnamese protégée re-open a dormant case.
"A knotty, philosophical mystery dense with lingering regrets." -Kirkus
In the early 1990s in Harmony Valley, a rural, Upstate New York village faded from its 18th and 19th century heyday, a group of teens engaged in an idiosyncratic role-playing game cross paths with June, a mysterious girl whose family has deep roots in the area, and Clyde Duane, a janitor who makes weekly visits to a strange room-the headquarters of a secret society-opening its door with a golden, serpent-headed key. Meanwhile an eccentric Utica lawyer pulls his young Vietnamese protégée into their firm's special case, which stretches back to the 1840s.
Decades later, in 2034, as the United States is breaking apart and a new way of life taking shape, June has disappeared. The mystery of her disappearance inspires a journey back to "The Happy Valley," and a reevaluation of the past that exposes the dark personal and societal secrets betraying our founding myths.
This atmospheric mystery, at turns gothic, poetic, cerebral, and funny, ranges from rural New York to the outer reaches of the Zebulon Galaxy; from the 1700s to the 4th decade of the 21st century.
The novel is 414 pages, with 66 full-page b&w illustrations by the author that "recall the excitability of middle-grade stories" (Kirkus), and includes an Appendix with a Timeline, and a detailed Reading Group Guide.
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About the Author
"Heavily immersive ... A wistful work that reflects both the uncertain child and the nostalgic adult ... A knotty, philosophical mystery dense with lingering regrets." -Kirkus
"Fabulous and engaging ... richly creative!" -Glenda Burgess, award-winning author of So Long As We're Together
"A thought-provoking exploration of the past, the future, and the worlds we construct for ourselves ... The Happy Valley offers fascinating insights about the relationship between the past and the future, anchoring its philosophical musings in a personal story of rediscovery. To blend the abstract with the concrete, to mash-up genres with intention-neither is any small feat, and this novel pulls off the sleight of hand necessary to bring its distinct vision to life." -Independent Book Review
"[A] trippy, ambitious debut novel ... Reading The Happy Valley is not unlike the experience of opening a D&D game box ... The novel itself cuts the aching solemnity of its melancholic atmosphere with childlike naiveté, wry self-awareness, and a refusal to take itself too seriously ... Dense with historical and cultural references and perceptive insights into human nature on both an individual and societal scale ... a poetic, delightfully inventive work of modern mythmaking." -Edward Sung for IndieReader
"One of the most intriguing, beguiling, and thought-provoking books I read this year." -Diana Spencer, classicist and author of Varro's Guide to Being Roman
"The Happy Valley is uniquely inventive, and must be lauded for its scope. With an ambitious number of genres at play, a host of captivating characters, and an innovative plot [it is] a well-written, imaginative work that will quickly draw readers into the mysterious narrator's search for truth." -SPR
"The story doesn't just open. It grabs ... From cards containing great power to the ironies of disparate forces that find themselves unexpectedly on the same side, Harnett's juxtaposition of social discord and angst are nicely done ... The profound realizations experienced by the characters in this story will attract and captivate mature teens and audiences interested in the concurrence of past, present, and future ... It's unusual to see this intellectual depth tailored for such a wide age range, yet The Happy Valley is such a creation. It should be included in school libraries into adult leisure reading collections, and ideally will be chosen by the kinds of book discussion groups that found many of the philosophical, social, and political components of Cloud Atlas worthy of debate ... Powerful, gripping, and tempered by mystery and intrigue, The Happy Valley resides in a category of its own-that of a unique and compelling work of art that blends social and historical inspection with the trajectories of everyday young lives." -D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review