Who will like A Valediction? Or why literary fiction is for everyone

A Valediction falls into that nebulous, almost unhelpfully broad label of “literary fiction.” (Wikipedia says that to be considered “literary,” a work must be “critically acclaimed” and “serious.” A Valediction is pretty “serious,” and my parents and grandparents just love the book, so that will have to do until the professional critics chime in.)

At the very least, A Valediction is fiction, but that’s not very descriptive. So who will like, or at the very least want to read, A Valediction?

Travelers

Remember the feeling when you connected profoundly in hours – or minutes – with an utter stranger then never saw them again? Or when you got lost in an unfamiliar city – maybe you didn’t know the language – and a seemingly random citizen kindly helped you figure out where you needed to go, or maybe they gave you their umbrella in the rain?

Those things can happen at home, but they usually don’t. Travel is often about the magic of a place – the earthy, medieval sprawl of red-roofed Florence; the dense Costa Rican rainforest pulsating with bird calls, howler monkeys, and moisture; or the breeze that lifts the scent of saltwater, greenery, and sun on the coast of southern Norway. But travel is also about the small moments that pass between you and people you would otherwise never know existed.

A Valediction is about those moments, and about how the world is unveiled when you finally get a chance to see some of it.

People who have been in relationships

Especially romantic ones. Have you ever been in a relationship where the two of you totally mesh on what seems like a number of levels, but you’re in different stages of life, or you want completely different things, and it doesn’t work out, not because of who you are, but because that’s just the way life is?

One of the most heartbreaking realizations about making life work is that sometimes it’s not about you, and there’s nothing left that you can do. Depressing? Sure. But often in heartbreak there is, eventually, meaning, and even if our lives can’t be happy all the time, we can only hope they will be meaningful. 

A Valediction is not about happy endings, but about finding yourself and the meaning in life. It’s the story of people just trying to figure it out, like you and me, but in maybe a literary, more critically-acclaimed way.

For people who didn’t – or still don’t – know what they want to do when they grow up

When you can do anything and be anyone, how do you make any choices? How do you ever really know what you want to do? A Valediction examines that in-between time (which for some of us lasts decades) when we’re just trying to figure out what we want our lives to look like.

It’s easy to get sidetracked – you meet a person whom you admire and think maybe that’s a life into which you could fit. You try on a lot of versions of yourself; if you’re lucky, you find one that fits. This is a story about trying on yourself, whether it’s the first one you’re trying or if you’ve got a pile of versions already stacked up outside the changing room door.

Readers

Because A Valediction is a book, and it’s a pretty good one too, and readers like that sort of thing.