Monday, July 06, 2009

Valley of the Shadow by Tom Pawlik (review)

Valley of the Shadow by Tom Pawlik
Copyright 2009
Tyndale House - Christian Fiction/Suspense
417 pages

This is going to be a really difficult book to describe, so bear with me. First things first: Valley of the Shadow is the second in a series, but it stands alone brilliantly. I had absolutely no problem figuring out the setting: there was no missing backstory that left this reader with a sensation of being lost. I do, however, want to read the first in the series because this second book was so mind-boggling, tense, amazing . . . more on that in a minute.

Valley of the Shadow takes place in two settings: the real world and Interworld. Interworld is a place everyone must pass on their way to heaven or hell, although those who head to heaven mostly appear to just zip right past it. Those who fall into a coma or are not quite dead end up stuck in Interworld.

In Valley of the Shadow, five people entered Interworld at the same time. After "dying" on the operating table for 20-30 minutes, Conner returned to life a new man. He remembered absolutely everything from his time in Interworld, including the names of the people who arrived there at the same time he did. Now, with a brand new faith in God, Conner has looked up the other people he encountered and found that one of them is in a juvenile detention facility and another lies in a coma. Convinced he was brought back to life for some higher purpose, Conner tells his story to everyone and is rebuffed. His boss puts him on leave.

While Conner is attempting to find out what he can do to help out, Mitch (who is comatose) is stuck in Interworld and his father is on the verge of unplugging him from life support. Inside Interworld, someone named Nathan tells him that he needs to get off the farm where he believes he's been living for 5 years. However, time is not the same in the Interworld as it is in real life and Mitch has only been in a coma for 2 months. Mitch has been staying with a man named Howard and isn't sure whether or not he should trust Nathan, although Howard gives him the creeps.

See how complicated this is to describe? Basically, you've got people fighting to bring Mitch back from both sides, a juvenile delinquent who has brought something on the order of a demon back with him and may be beyond saving, a couple of men who think it's their mission to help out, and this black, scary thing that wants to grab Mitch and pull him into hell. And, a bunch of other scary things that pull people away, but . . . let's just say this is a really creepy book in a good way. In spite of the overlapping storylines, it's really not so confusing as it sounds. It's just difficult to put it all into words. You just have to read it. Sorry. I'm at a loss.

4.75/5 - Excellent! A fast-paced, suspenseful thriller with a Christian theme, creepy creatures from hell, some tense chase scenes and a knock-your-socks-off conclusion.

Side note: My youngest son read this book the day it arrived; and, he also had no trouble with the fact that it is the second in a series. He filed a request with the Book Ordering Mom-person for a copy of Vanish, the first book in the series.

Just for fun . . . the following photo was taken during our home fireworks show. Fireworks are legal in our county, although they probably should have been banned, this year, due to over 3 weeks with no rain. Hubby hosed down the dry lawn and both guys stomped out stray embers. This is a photo my husband suggested that I take, of youngest son running through the smoke from one of our little smoke bombs.

I received two books from Paperback Swap, today, and I'm curious how other people feel about their PBS experiences. One of the books, a book of short stories by Miranda July, arrived in pristine condition. The other didn't meet my conditions. Lately, it seems like I'm running about 50/50. Half the time, I get books in very good condition, and half the time the book police ought to arrest the sender for tome abuse. Are you a PBS'er? If so, has it been a good experience or are you receiving a lot of bad books? Just curious.

Happy Monday!!


  1. Interesting stories from purgatory! Sounds good.

    Abuse? What did they do? Crack the spine? Rifle the pages? dip the book in chocolate?

  2. This sounds like an excellent read. Onto the wish list with it! Thanks for the great review - the total lack of clarity in the book summary has me even more curious. LOL! Sounds like the story has a lot of layers, and I like my stories with layers. ;-)

  3. Carrie,

    It's gripping. One of the characters says it's not really purgatory, but I kept wanting to call it that. It seems similar enough.

    Oh, you know -- dirt-encrusted, spine-cracked, page-turned, cover-crumpled, coffee-spilled, mouse-nibbled. You name it, someone's thought it was fine and dandy to send. So far, I haven't gotten any with missing pages or no cover, but I know people who have. That's pretty crazy. There are rules, after all.


    Oh, boy. "Total lack of clarity" is so true. It's definitely layered and I hope I made it clear that I thought Valley of the Shadow was an awesome read, in spite of the fact that I can't describe it!! LOL I hope you love it. I've put Vanish on my wish list and I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next!

  4. This book sounds creepy! I love it ;) I'll definitely be putting this one on the wishlist! Look at you making me delve into Christian fiction...I don't know that I've ever read any...unless you want to count the Narnia series. I love that photo of your son running through the smoke! Looks like a great book cover to me.

    Speaking of book covers, I'm thinking of doing NaNoWriMo again this year. (sorry, you're seeing how my mind flows right now :p) Are you going to do it this year? I'd be much more inclined to participate if you were too ;)

    Hope you had a nice fourth Nancy!!

  5. Chris,

    Yeah, you'd love it. It's really creepy and fast-moving. Fun, fun. The Christianity gets pretty heavy toward the end, but only for a short time and with a heaven/hell thing, you have to expect that. I still think you'll love it. Isn't that photo cool? I only got one shot. That smoke disperses pretty rapidly. I was thinking it looked like a good book or movie cover (but it's probably been done!).

    Wow, you think ahead! I *always* plan on doing NaNoWriMo, though, yes. If it doesn't happen, it's because something stupid got in the way, like people dying or falling into a depression because people are dying or . . . now, if I were to get a chance to go somewhere terrific, I'd be fine with that, but I can do without all the dying. I will definitely sign up and if I can't do it, I'll let you know.

  6. I was raised Catholic, so the heavy Christianity won't get to me much :p

    LOL..I've been wanting to write lately. That's what has me thinking of NaNoWriMo...I'm thinking I may do a YA book this year. I hope you don't have any dying or depression this year :( That's really sad. I totally think you should make the hubby pay for you to go away somewhere exotic for the entire month of November :p

    Is that squirrel in your header eating an ice cream cone?! Too damn cute!

  7. Neat picture!

    I'm glad you're planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year. I'm going to participate but I'm pretty positive I won't finish because the Hubs is deploying that month, so I'll be busy rubbing up against him all the time.

  8. Chris,

    Well, that's good to know. :)

    YA sounds perfect. I haven't even thought about what I might do. Usually, if I think too much I end up running into a wall and starting over, although I do have this one dream that I've always thought should be turned into a book.

    Yep, that's a squirrel eating an ice cream cone! Someone dropped the cone in a parking lot, when we were in Michigan. The squirrel unwrapped it and dashed off to eat it under a tree. Thank goodness I had a camera around my neck!!!


    Thank you!

    Oops, careful. This is a family-friendly blog, and by that I don't mean give me the graphic details when you try to make a family. LOL I'm sorry he's being deployed, again. Back to Afghanistan?

  9. I have good luck with PBS. I've never gotten a book in seriously bad condition. Knock on wood.

  10. Amy,

    You're very fortunate, then! I've gotten a lot of bad books and I have a terrible time with the fact that you have to talk it out with the other person to get your credit back. I usually just say, "Oh, heck, keep your credit," whether or not I think they deserve it.

  11. I am trying to finish this one up. You're right it is fast-paced and gripping.

    I haven't had bad luck with PBS. In fact, I'd say I have received far more in excellent condition. Sorry you are having a bummer of a time.

    Great pic of your son!

  12. Amy,

    Isn't it a wild read? I really enjoyed it. I started reading Valley of the Shadow kind of last-minute but it's definitely a quick read.

    I have a couple of friends who've actually given up on Paperback Swap, so it's really interesting finding out what everyone else's experience has been like. Granted, I've been a member for a long time, now, and I think the longer you're in it the more likely you are to have gotten some bad books.

  13. Oh wow, that's pretty abusive. I get denigrated by my brother and the BFF of Ancient Days because you can tell I've read a paperback - I can't seem to not have the pages fan a bit at the very least - both of them can read a PB and you'd never, ever know.

  14. Carrie,

    I'm like your brother and BFF. My books are generally pristine when I finish. If there's a bent cover, it's usually because I stuck a book in my purse or (more likely) left it on the bed and the husband flopped down on it. My spouse is a book-killer, but I try to keep the books away from him.

  15. Someone needs to write up a fabulous and informative post about PBS--can I nominate you for that job? :) I have briefly looked at the website, but I just don't get it. Do you HAVE to swap? Or can you just get sweet free books? :P Seriously, I have no idea--does the type of book you can get depend on the type of book you are exchanging? My wallet hates me right now--and hates most of you bloggers as well!!

  16. Trish,

    PBS is a swapping site so, yes, you have to swap. I don't know how many books you have to list (those you're making available to other people) in order to get started, but I think it used to be 9 and they gave you a couple of credits to get started. What you do is sign up (get a member ID and password), list however many books they require, and then when someone requests a book from you, you get a message, go to the website and hit either "Yes, I can mail this book within 2 days," (there's another button if you need more time) or "No, I cannot mail this book", if you can't find it or decide it's not acceptable.

    You can actually buy credits (I never do) or wait till you earn some and then you can go add books to your wishlist, which essentially places you in line to receive a book if there are other people waiting. Newer books tend to have bigger waiting lists. If a book is available and you have a credit, you can order it immediately. If a copy is not available, you can see how many people are ahead of you in line and add the book to your wishlist. When a copy becomes available, you'll get a message asking you if you still want the book and you just go to the website to say you want it (or don't).

    When a book you've requested arrives, you check it in at the website and the sender gets a credit (and the reverse is true, of course). It's really confusing, at first, but it becomes easier as you get used to the process.

  17. And you're kind of "eh" about it? I think my problem is I don't have enough books I want to swap. I'd rather receive and not give. :P

  18. Trish,

    Oh, heavens, no. I love PBS. Occasionally, I get kind of frustrated with the quality of books I receive, since almost everything I send out is pristine. But, it's been great for me because I can acquire books that never show up in my library for just the cost of postage. I used to buy a lot from and I completely stopped because you just pay for postage (the cost to send a book is your only expense; receiving costs you a credit and nothing else) when you use PBS. I actually have too many books. Maybe I should dump a few on you. :)

  19. You did good with the review - no problems following it. Sounds like a good book and love the picture!

    You know my recent experiences with PBS - I don't plan on actively using them once my credits are gone - and I only have 2 or 3 left.

  20. Kris,

    Thank you! Valley of the Shadow is one bear of a book to describe but it's really, really good. I would never have guessed that it would interest Will, but he snatched it up and read it practically the moment it came through the door.

    Yep, it seems like those of us in AN2R have not had the best of experiences with PBS. I'm still going to use it, but I've got to get over my inability to complain when a book genuinely doesn't meet my requirements. I'm such a wimp about that. I guess I figure if it's readable there's no excuse for complaint, but it's amazing how many people ignore those added conditions.

  21. Sorry! I meant it in an innocent cuddling way. Yikes, I gotta watch my mouth.

    Yep, back to Afghanistan. Please keep him in your prayers.

  22. Nikki,

    I know; I was just razzing you because that comment could be misconstrued.

    I will definitely keep your hubby in my prayers.

  23. Wow - the photo is AWESOME! scary even and really fit the review.
    Now, how to do I get one of those Book Ordering Mom-persons? too funny. I love how you write. :)

  24. Care,

    Thanks! I try to color-coordinate my photos with the book covers, sometimes, and I thought the running fit the theme of the book.

    I think you have to be born to those Book-Ordering Mom persons. Mine was not very cooperative. It was "library or nothing", which sucked because I could only go to the library if she was in the mood to drive (and my mother wasn't a big fan of driving). Aw, thank you. :)

  25. Anonymous9:55 PM

    So often, Christian fiction can be...trite? I'm not sure of the right adjective here. I like Peretti's work very much. The Visitation comes to mind as an outstanding read, and this one looks at least as good.

  26. Bellezza,

    I think the vast majority of Christian fiction was overblown and preachy, just a few years ago, but it's improved dramatically. I haven't read Peretti. Eck. You're going to get me in trouble.

  27. hi, loved your comment back about your mom and the library or nothin'. I, too, was fond of the library as a child and I'm not sure I realized that books could even be purchased. (obvious, we didn't own many books ourselves.) and I'm sure that I thought people with libraries in their own homes had such ONLY because they must not have had a library to go to! I even had a bit of hero worship for Carnegie because he built SO MANY libraries - what a guy. I think I'll go look up a bio on him, now that I think of it...

  28. Care,

    The cool thing about our library was that the head librarian was one of my mother's best friends. So, when we did make it down there, Mom went off to have coffee with Marlene and I was free to roam. I always went home with a monstrous pile of books in the summer. During the winter, we didn't make it too often. If there was snow or ice, forget it. Mom wasn't going out and she didn't want me to check anything out, anyway, because then she'd have to go back to return the books! And, it really did snow more, back then.

    Carnegie was cool. That's so funny, what you said about people with personal libraries. We did have some books in our house, but compared to my humongous personal library . . . nothin'.

  29. You do realize that's a sign that you're an alien, right? ;)

  30. Carrie,

    You do know you can be arrested for book abuse, don't you? ;) Heh. We need to take a girl vacation and have a good talk about that one.


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