From the author of A Pint of Plain and Traveling Light. “In his first novel, Bill Barich delivers a seasoned performance” (The New York Times Book Review).
From one of California’s most celebrated writers comes a generous and deeply absorbing novel, as filled with warmth and the hope of second chances as the land it describes.
Returning from New York to the vineyards of Northern California to be with her dying mother, Anna Torelli never expects that the trip will change her life. But when she meets Arthur Atwater, her father’s vineyard manager—a man as emotionally bruised and as fiercely independent as she is—Anna is pulled back into the rhythms of the growing season, into the radiant landscape of her childhood, and into a love affair that rouses her as nothing has before. Carson Valley is also home to Anna’s aging father, Victor, the son of Italian immigrants who first planted the vineyard in the 1890s, and his foreman, Antonio Lopez, a Mexican immigrant whose marital troubles deepen when his cousin Omar Perez crosses the border illegally to work the vineyard harvest.
Carson Valley is a masterful work of social realism—as insightful about modern love as it is about rural life in the grip of change.
“Bill Barich writes with superb intelligence, with sympathy and unusual grace.” —Richard Ford, New York Times–bestselling author
“Barich marvelously captures the elemental life of the vineyard . . . [He] sets every human endeavor, all emotion and loving and fear, against the implacable rhythms of the soil.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A quietly but genuinely remarkable debut.” —Kirkus Reviews
The cyclical drama of Northern California's grape harvest is a backdrop for romantic reawakenings in this evocative tale set in Sonoma County's Carson Valley. Crusty 79-year-old Victor Torelli has spent his life farming acreage that has been in his family for over 100 years, but his attachment to the land is weakening as his wife, Claire, battles cancer. Victor has hired a vineyard manager, Arthur Atwater, to bring in his grapes. When Victor's daughter, Anna, returns from Manhattan to help care for her mother, she and Atwater embark on a passionate yet wary love affairDeach taking care not to reopen the wounds of past romantic failures. Barich (Laughing in the Hills; Travelling Light) marvelously captures the elemental life of the vineyard, the experiences of migrant workers and the responsibilities of Atwater. Just as pastry shops and boutiques with names like "Wine Country Woman" are invading the once rough farm country, an onslaught of high-tech approaches to wine-making threatens traditional methods. The romance at the center of the novel is tepid and predictable; Anna and Atwater's soul-searching and handwringing seem downright silly alongside the wonderfully depicted natural world. But that's sort of the point, as Barich sets every human endeavor, all emotion and loving and fear, against the implacable rhythms of the soil. There is wisdom embodied in old man Torelli, who has seen so much change in his life, and Barich renders it delightful. Author tour.