"On the map, their destination had been a stretch of green, as if they would be living on a golf course."
The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can't reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant.
Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.
A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and irrepressible resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
If you've been following my letters to you, I'm sure you haven't missed my excitement for this book. I'll admit it, this was brought to my radar through the great Mr. Colbert. For those of you living under a rock or who don't follow all book related news religiously (Like ME!) I'll give you a short breakdown of what has probably made Edan Lepucki a very happy debut Author. I love these kinds of stories and so this book gave me all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings, knowing that a deserving Author has been given this incredible "bump" that is usually unheard of for an unknown. Do you know about the dispute between Hachette and Amazon? If not, just read this. That should give you a nice background on what's been going on. I don't have a particular side I'm standing on here, I think these are two giant companies disputing a contract and I find the whole thing a little overdone. However, while watching Colbert one night with my boyfriend, he had Sherman Alexie on and started talking about this dispute. Obviously Colbert is going to side with Hachette (he has books published with them), so he decided to take a stand on his show and asked Sherman Alexie to pick an upcoming Hachette book to promote, claiming HE could sell more books than Amazon. Sherman selected "California" and Colbert went with it, asking the audience and viewers to go BUY the book from Powell's Books (a larger but independent bookseller that has a fantastic online site). So what happened next? California became Powell's Books number one seller and surpassed "The Silkworm"! Can't get any better than that. Yours truly bought the book from Powell's online and was surprised when it came SIGNED in the mail. I guess, Lepucki decided to give all those supporters a surprise and a thank you, and I was thrilled. Thank you Edan Lepucki, you have made a forever fan out of me.
Let's get back to the important part of all of this... the BOOK! Yes, this is a truly heartwarming story which pushed "California" into the hands of many who might not have picked it up. I'm certainly glad I did because this is MY kind of book. I had such high expectations (due to the hype) and this book lived up to them, which is hard to do. I sprinted through this book, wanting to find out what happens, totally engrossed with the characters and their surroundings. I want this to be turned into a TV Show, a series, I want more, more, more! Just when you thought Dystopian books were getting old and stale, Lepucki comes from left field and hits you in the face with a totally refreshing dystopian story. I say refreshing, but I also have to stress how ADULT this book is, you won't find any youngsters here... nope, the characters are full of adult angst (not teenage). I don't have any problem with teenage angst per se, but I do find myself missing those adult problems in many of the latest genre books. I'm not sure if this is a genre book or a literary book, maybe both? What did everyone label "The Road" as?
Again, digressing... let me rewind and give you a little more background about the story. "California" starts with Cal and Frida living in the woods after L.A. has completely broken down (not to mention the rest of the world). The reader isn't told much about what went down to cause Cal and Frida to flee to the woods, but we do know that things must have been pretty bad. At first, the story is really more of a psychological one, trying to get into the heads of this couple and understand them. We get asked really hard questions from Lepucki, we are lead to think about how we would react in a situation like that. The start is slow, unnerving but somewhat calm, almost like Lepucki wants you to feel comfort and get to know the characters before she throws them into the whirlwind that comes next. The next half of the book is all about the excitement and has a little more edge of your seat-ness to it. Just when you thought things couldn't get any better, they do! I don't want to go into this part of the book much because you discover many surprises along the way, which was part of the beauty of the book. I'd hate to spoil anything for you, I knew very little about the book myself before I read it and I have to say the experience was fantastic. I want you to have that same experience when you read it. I just hope the hype of the book doesn't start giving away all those little gems. Don't look at the shiny things, turn away... you'll be thankful you did.
The one thing I will comment on is the connection I felt to these characters, I found myself loving their relationship... cheering them on. I wanted them to succeed in the wilderness, I wanted them to break free from all the crap and be one with nature. But can you REALLY live with only one person without getting on their nerves? That struggle between Cal and Frida was heartbreaking, you felt pangs for them when they kept a secret or when they got into a little spat. I wanted them to have that happy ending (I'm NOT telling you if that happened or not) but I just felt so connected to them. I have to admit, the love scenes had me blushing, I'm not really used to that since I don't read romance. I like that they made me realize how lovey dovey these characters are, how they aren't that married couple that loses interest. They have a very strong bond and again, I found myself in their corner cheering them on. Lepucki did an excellent job with this debut novel. I'm actually going to see her at RJ Julia later this month and I look forward to hearing what she has to say. Stay tuned, I'm sure we'll do a follow up post with all that Lepucki insight after the event! Can't wait!
Instead of supporting Self Notes, this time...