Editorial Review: A Thousand Valleys by Ken Fulmer
A Thousand Valleys tells the story of a young boy growing up too soon and almost against his will, his mother’s health, and the societal deficiencies of the 1970’s.
When Jimmy got sick, he nearly died, which sent his mother Sara into a tailspin. Her life hadn’t been perfect for a long time, but working nights at the hospital and barely seeing her son took its toll on her. Her belief that the government was behind her son’s sickness and covered it up was a foreshadowing of things to come.
Despite finding a safe adult in Judy, their next-door neighbor, Jimmy struggles to fit in and find friends. Not helped when his mother is fired and they need to move towns abruptly, he finds that the cool kids at school bully him and call his house Crazy Central thanks to his mom’s declining health.
After an incident where bad blood breaks through and tempers flare, Sara is sent away and Jimmy is on his own in his grandparent’s house. Their strict rules and high expectations are a struggle to deal with, and, at only nine years old, Jimmy realizes that if he’s going to survive, he needs to give up his toys and turn off his emotions.
Jimmy needs to learn to negotiate an existence where his mother isn’t a safe person and the world is a constant disappointment.
Throwing a harsh light on the realities of living with a loved one with untreated and severe mental illness, A Thousand Valleys is more than a slice of a traumatic life. It unearths the longing for security, for kindness, and the desire to live a life different from the one you’ve seen so far.
Ken Fulmer delivers a story told from the inside – his understanding of the complex machinations that twist a life is deep and detailed. Overcoming generational trauma, the sometimes unexpected things that cause that trauma, and the evolving treatment of those with trauma are all central to the deeper meaning of this story.
This is not a light-hearted story, but it talks engagingly about important things that we are still struggling as a society to fully understand. Compassionate discourse in fiction around mental health and the effect it has on everyone involved is a delicate balance of fact and fiction – which Ken Fulmer delivers well.
Well written and engaging, A Thousand Valleys is a touching and compassionate story that draws you in and makes you care.