I’m not sure how this title ended up on my shelf, but I gave it a go. No Dark Valley is a phrase from a hymn (There’ll be no dark valley when Jesus comes to gather his loved ones home). As a resolute lover of robust hymns, I found the best part of No Dark Valley to be Turner’s employing hymn phrases into chapter titles and into her prose, e.g. Ten Thousand Charms; Where Bright Angel Feet Have Trod; Some Melodious Sonnet; Frail Children of Dust; And Grace Will Lead Me Home. I’m often snipping little phrases from hymns for a bouquet of words. This, alone, made the book worth reading.
There was a laugh out loud moment: … Grandmother’s pastor, who seemed to be trying to depict the concept of eternality by the length of his prayer.
The protagonist, Celia, is a director of an art gallery. The last five books I’ve read have referenced pieces of art, a delightful rabbit trail. No Dark Valley paired paintings and poems inspired by the paintings, a worthy exploration. Here is Delmore Schwartz’s poem Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon Along the Seine; Cathy Song’s poem Girl Powdering Her Neck based on a Kitagawa Utamaro print; a Charles DeMuth, William Carlos William pairing.
I liked the hymn phrases and fine art references. When she isn’t highlighting fine art, Turner pokes some fun at kitsch: Their idea of good art was sticking a calendar picture or an old greeting card inside a frame from Kmart. And later: Her idea of good art was the newest Precious Moments figurine.
But the writing did not win me. The reader is told in almost every chapter about Celia’s angst and remorse; the subtlety of showing Celia’s feelings by her facial expressions, position of her hands, physical responses would have been better. That, along with a predictable storyline and wooden characterization, haven’t changed my opinion of contemporary Christian fiction.