WONDER VALLEY — Author William Hillyard admitted he was nervous about reading from his book, “Welcome to Wonder Valley,” a series of essays about the people of Wonder Valley, to the people of Wonder Valley.
That did not stop him from reading the work, beginning with an extended look at a woman who felt she had been betrayed by the desert community.
Hillyard read from his work at a special event, which saw residents fill the Wonder Valley Community Center on Amboy Road, Saturday afternoon, Feb. 2.
Hillyard has been writing about Wonder Valley since 2009 and has found no shortage of stories in the community.
“There’s a whole lot of people in Winder Valley and it’s a weird, strange place,” he said Saturday afternoon.
He said he first became interested in the areas through his wife, a geologist, who liked that there weren’t a lot of plants hiding the rocks.
“You can actually see the geology,” he said.
He and his wife first drove through Wonder Valley in 1988. He started visiting the area more often in 2004 when his parents moved to Twentynine Palms.
“I started driving around, talking to people and collecting stories,” he said.
Before beginning his reading, he admitted being nervous about reading stories about Wonder Valley to people who live in Wonder Valley.
He opened with the story of a woman who wanted nothing more than to get out of Wonder Valley.
“Wonder Valley has betrayed me,” she tells him in the story. “Now it is killing me. Wonder Valley is killing me and if I don’t get out of here I will die.”
In the story, Hillyard goes on to explain that Wonder Valley, like many other places in the country, has become not a community but a collection of competing tribes, each keeping to itself and suspicious of the others.
In Wonder Valley’s case, there are the old timers, who first settled the area, artists and writers, who came to the area for inspiration, and one other group.
“The feral people, the lowlifes who just found themselves here,” he said.
Wonder Valley Community Center Coordinator Teresa Sitz, who helped organize the reading for the Friends of Wonder Valley, said residents seemed to enjoy the work.
“They seemed to really love it,” she said. “I know I did.
“I’d only heard about the book before, but hearing Bill read from it I could tell the stories came from a humble place and Bill had put a lot of his heart into it.
“It was wonderful hearing about Nikos, a man much loved by many, who were devastated when he died in 2017.
“Bill applied some lovely poetry to Wonder Valley, comparing it to the Galápagos Islands, in the sense that it is largely cut off and isolated from the rest of the world. I’m looking forward to reading the entire book when it is published.”