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Three Desert Fiction Novels to Consider for Your Reading List

The bright yellows, deep oranges, and stark reds of my neighbor’s trees juxtaposed with green lawns have sparked my interest in something unconventional this autumn: the desert. Each novel previewed below features a desert with themes of survival and grief. Where Gold Fame Citrus nearly dips into sci-fi territory, A Prayer for Travelers twists like a mystery and Death Valley turns meta and surreal.

Death Valley by Melissa Broder
An unnamed narrator checks into a Best Western hotel settled amidst a landscape of Joshua Trees. By day, our protagonist ventures out on to the hiking trails nearby. By night, the narrator facetimes with her father in the ICU, a sibling, and a husband back at home. Each person assures the narrator to stay where they are instead of returning home. On one of the hikes, the protagonist comes across a curiously oversized cactus blocking her path forward. The protagonist decides to squeeze through what looks like a cutout of a door. She presses on as if passing through the horizon of a bubble. Inside is a memory.

A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar
Cale arrives at Penny’s trailer home to find Penny and her newborn puppy missing.  We rewind to see how Cale and Penny met with chapters that are numbered in the order of events, but not placed by the author in order events happen. Cale files a police report and starts attempting to track people who might know where Penny went down. Along the way, everyone wants to know what happened to Cale’s bruised face. A Prayer for Travelers is a slow burn built with characterization. Cale gets the run around as she attempts to find Penny. All Cale really needs to find is herself.

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
This environmental novel has a weird sense of humor. All mentions of war and water induce avoidance or euphemisms. Luz and Ray have squatted in an abandoned Malibu mansion. The mansion’s neglect is illustrated in the small animals which occasionally appear indoors, surprised to find inhabitants. Luz busies herself trying on dresses the mansion’s former owner left behind while Ray builds a half-pipe in the empty pool outside.  Then one day, Luz and Ray stumble upon a small child. They decide the child’s companions are no good, and they take her.

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