Toronto Book Review

10

THE OTHER VALLEY BY SCOTT ALEXANDER HOWARD

In a secluded and enigmatic village lies the upbringing of Odile Ozanne, a solitary young woman whose life unfolds within the confines of predetermined fate, or so she believes. This remarkable debut novel delves into Odile’s journey as she navigates the mysteries of her village, nestled amidst borders that intertwine with both its past and future.

At the tender age of 16, Odile finds herself trapped in a world where every twist and turn of her existence appears predestined. The village she calls home sits nestled between mountains, with an unusual peculiarity—adjacent to it lies a mirror-image town existing two decades in the past, and another, twenty years into the future. These neighboring towns, shrouded in secrecy, hold within them the enigmatic allure of time travel.

The borders separating these temporal realms are zealously guarded by the formidable Conseil, a group vested with immense power and authority. Strict protocols dictate that only those granted explicit permission may traverse the temporal thresholds, ensuring the preservation of the delicate balance of time. However, when Odile inadvertently bears witness to her friend Edme’s parents crossing the border, she is thrust into a dilemma that threatens to unravel the fabric of their reality.

As Odile grapples with the weight of this newfound knowledge, she embarks on a journey fraught with moral complexities and existential inquiries. Howard intricately weaves a tapestry of emotions, crafting a narrative that transcends mere coming-of-age tropes. Through Odile’s poignant narrative, the novel delves into profound themes of grief, love, and the inexorable passage of time.

Beyond its narrative charm, the novel engages with profound philosophical discourse, exploring the intricacies of mortality, the dichotomy between fate and free will, and the profound lengths individuals are willing to traverse in pursuit of love. It is a testament to Howard’s prowess that amidst the backdrop of temporal intricacies, the narrative remains grounded in its exploration of human emotions and ethical quandaries.

In its poignant exploration of ethics, power dynamics, and the complexities of love, Howard’s debut stands as a captivating ode to the genre. Perfectly suited for aficionados of Ishiguro and McEwan, this thought-provoking tale invites readers on a transcendent journey through the corridors of time and the recesses of the human heart.

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