In Welcome to Utopia, quintessential American stories—the mom anxiously sending her sons to Iraq and Afghanistan, teens longing to escape the familiar, old-timers trying to hold onto their roots while the world around them changes—come to life on every page. Karen Valby’s extraordinary capacity to observe and empathize helps us understand that whether we live in a small town like Utopia, Texas, or a large city, we confront the same fears and dream the same dreams. Welcome to Utopia celebrates the bonds that connect us, while proving that the only things that are small about small towns are our preconceptions of them.
“There’s nothing small about Karen Valby’s majestic and life-affirming look at a small town. Welcome to Utopia is a first book like To Kill a Mockingbird was a first book. It is, in the most modest phrasing I can think of, a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction.”
“The characters, the town, and the landscape in Welcome to Utopia are so perfectly drawn, they seem as near to me as my own neighbors. Karen Valby is a writer of astonishing talent, and in this book she has given us the record of a rich and vanishing world.”
—Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy
“A rich portrait of a community, bound by tradition and grief, sickness and success, and most of all, a commitment to one another. … [Valby], in turn, has repaid them in kind, as her literary portrait of them sits comfortably on the bookshelf next to other classic works about the culture of small-town America, including Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show. Of course, those works were fiction. This, as the denizens of Utopia would no doubt tell you, is something altogether more powerful and important: real life.”
—Dallas Morning News