cover image Into the Valley

Into the Valley

Ruth Galm. Soho, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61695-509-0

It’s 1967, and 30-year-old B. has moved to San Francisco from Boston. To ease intense bouts of dizziness, she uses skills picked up from an on-again, off-again lover: she begins cashing counterfeit checks and buys a Mustang, then heads for California’s flat, desolate Central Valley, hoping the new, simpler surroundings will help curb her spells. B. wanders from town to town, meets locals, and contemplates a permanent move to these meeker environs. Yet as time passes, she finds that her “carsickness” (as she calls it) vanishes only when she is inside a bank, casually conning a teller out of hundreds of dollars. B.’s episodic encounters gel as the novel progresses—certain moments, particularly B.’s interaction with a lonesome college professor, provide memorable anchors—and she eventually takes on a teenage hippie as a companion, who questions the source of B.’s riches. Galm’s debut is precisely written and casually paced, and this works to the novel’s advantage, reinforcing the limitations of the rural areas B. encounters while acting as a strong contrast to scenes of counterfeiting, which B. grows increasingly dependent on. A standout debut. (Aug.)