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The Other Valley (2024)Description / Buy at Amazon

Scott Alexander Howard is a published Canadian author.

Howard resides in Vancouver in British Columbia. He attended the University of Toronto, where he graduated with a PhD in the subject of philosophy. He attended Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow. His work focuses on the relationship that exists between literature, memory, and emotion.

His debut novel The Other Valley was received extremely well. It was named a Winter/Spring 2024 Indies Introduce selection for adult fiction and was a pick for the March 2024 Indie Next List. Melissa Sagendorph was part of the panel that picked Howard’s book for the Indies Introduce. She said that the author captured the pain and yearning of regret ‘beautifully’. She says that the character of Odile is ready to embrace her bright future when she comes upon a secret that will have consequences that could be awful. When she cannot act, she is pushed by grief to make bad decisions that will change the entire course of her life. Melissa feels that this novel presses the reader to look at their own life and see how much change is possible in a world that does not forgive mistakes.

Melissa also interviewed the author about his own novel, asking Scott about how his own personal experiences dealing with loss have proven to be an influence on his writing and what inspired it. Scott recounts that the premise of the book came to him in the same days that were leading to a friend’s death. The two hand grown up together and later moved to Toronto together. She received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and was treated for years before eventually being moved to hospice.

Scott says that he recalls being on the laptop doing what he could to try and help her sister arrange final visits. It was then that an image came into his head of a town ‘repeating itself across the landscape’, with each representation separate from the others in time. Here the future and past were physical, and so time travel became geographical. You could go to the past by hiking and witness someone you missed still alive and doing various things.

Scott also thinks that the idea was influenced by his wife having a dream after her friend had passed. The dream was one where the person who is dead is once more alive, but you are also aware at the moment that they have passed away. His wife was happy to have seen her friend once more, a response that ‘stuck’ with the author.

Scott has been also impressed and happy that many readers have reached out to say that they have finished the book and are still thinking about it once they have finished it. The reflections that they often mention are their own life choices, identifying with what may have happened if they have selected a different path to walk. The author says that there have been big decisions in his life that he has been tempted to regret, and some of that unsettled nature has been transposed into the lives of different characters. However, regrets can be tough, because big choices have big roles on shaping the life of the person now regretting it.

The author has also studied memory in his path as a philosopher. It’s one of those things that drew them to the subject matter of the novel. Scott has been fascinated with the passage of time ever since he was young. When it was time to pick his PhD dissertation topic, he made a niche for himself where he would be able to study fiction as well as poetry that deals with the topic of transience. Howard does note that the book is more of a continuation of that young fascination that existed and less an academic research continuation.

Scott says that his literary voice for the project evolved naturally but was also deliberate. While re-reading his first draft, he would often feel impatient when the writing seemed to him to be flashy or even digressive. His attention would return when the writing was more straight forward. Scott made an effort to make the narrative style more linear, combining traditional storytelling with a strange world. He says that much of the voice came from the protagonist, Odile. She has a formality in her tone and with a lyrical and bookish interior. With range tonally present from the beginning, Scott worked to eventually find the right balance for it.

The author says his goal for The Other Valley was to create a simple and sharp story. Scott wanted the clarity of the premise to translate and be retained by the novel for the atmosphere and plot. This led him to constantly streamline information. He also made an effort to avoid falling into obvious time travel paradoxes, even coming up with a chart to help him map the different timelines of the valleys.

The Other Valley was a best-seller when it came out and was picked for many different titles and distinctions. It was named the most anticipated science fiction book for 2024 by Goodreads. It was also a February 2024 Editors Pick for Goodreads. Washington Post picked it as a Noteworthy Book to Read in February 2024. It was also named a Most Anticipated Audiobook Debut by Audible for 2024, a Lithub Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book for February 2024, an Apple Most Anticipated Novel, an Apple Best Book for March 2024, a Winter/Spring 2024 Indies Introduce Pick, a March 2024 Indie Next Pick, a Jordy’s Book Club March 2024 Pick, a finalist for the Jimmy Fallon Book Club, and a PBS Books Readers Club Pick for April 2024.

The Other Valley is the debut speculative fiction novel from Scott Alexander Howard. It was first released in 2024. This is the story about a town that is isolated but also has its own future and past as physical neighbors.

Main character Odile is a young 16 year old girl who is both quiet and awkward. She’s currently trying to get herself a seat as port of the Conseil. If she gets the position, she’ll get to decide just who gets to go across the borders of the town, which are guarded heavily.

To the west, it’s the same town and valley, just twenty years in the past. In the east, it’s the opposite. The town and valley are twenty years in the future. All the way across the wilderness, the towns repeat themselves endlessly in sequence.

One day, Odile sees two visitors that she shouldn’t and recognizes them. She realizes that they are the parents of her friend Edme. They’ve been brought from the future across the border to see their son while still alive in the present as part of a mourning tour.

Edme has always been a good person that saw Odile truly, always funny and smart. But now Odile knows a horrible secret: that her good friend is about to die. Odile must keep it a secret to protect the timeline and has become the top candidate for the Conseil. But will she risk everything to try and warn Edme? Read this compelling novel to find out!

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