"The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. Read more...
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"In her arresting debut novel, Edan Lepucki conjures a lush, intricate, deeply disturbing vision of the future, then masterfully exploits its dramatic possibilities." ---Jennifer Egan, author of "A Visit from the Goon Squad
"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 in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can't reclaim, they seek solace in each 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 and 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 dangers of its own. 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 deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
- ISBN-13: 9780316250818
- ISBN-10: 0316250813
- Publisher: Little Brown and Company
- Publish Date: July 2014
- Page Count: 393
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-05-05
- Reviewer: Staff
In her suspenseful debut, Lepucki envisions a postapocalyptic America and the people left behind. After fleeing a decaying, ransacked Los Angeles to begin anew in the wilderness, married couple Cal and Frida are faced with dwindling supplies and an uncertain future. When Frida discovers she might be pregnant, the need to connect with other survivors becomes all the more imperative. The couple finds hope after stumbling upon a fortified rogue encampment in the woods with startling connections to Frida’s past. That is, until unsettling aspects about the place—the absence of any children in the community, a despotic leader, and ties to an underground group linked to a suicide bombing, among other revolutionary acts—suggest Cal and Frida might be better off on their own. Though real-world parallels can be drawn regarding the circumstances of the world’s decline and rebirth in the novel—“the Group” is like a mash-up of the Occupy Wall Street and Weather Underground movements; the sterile wealthier “Communities” clearly signify the 1%—Lepucki focuses on Cal and Frida’s evolving relationship and their divergent approaches to their predicament. As seen in chapters told from their alternating perspectives, the less they trust each other, the more tension mounts, building to an explosive climax that few readers will see coming. (July)
After the end, a new beginning
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, July 2014
Stories of human survival and hope after an apocalyptic event are well worn at this point. As a result, the themes and tropes of these tales often feel so trodden and predictable that they become little more than echoes. Then, there are stories like California.
In the near future, civilization as Cal and Frida know it has crumbled. Hoping for a new life, they flee the ruined city of Los Angeles and settle in a small shed in the wilderness, carving out the best life they can with what little they have. It’s hard, but they have each other, and that seems comfort enough—until Frida discovers she’s pregnant.
Fearing what might happen if they try to survive the pregnancy alone, Cal and Frida set out for a mysterious nearby settlement, but when they arrive, it becomes clear that this hoped-for sanctuary is instead a world where it seems no one can be trusted.
The real secret to the greatness of California, aside from its fully realized characters and thoughtful narration, is an attention to detail that draws you immediately into Edan Lepucki’s mysterious new world. This isn’t a place of easy answers, but it is a place of layered, constantly unfolding ones. Frida and Cal’s journey is a web of secrets, fears and truths old and new, and Lepucki deftly creates the sense that these elements are simultaneously happening all at once and feeding off each other, crafting a truly unpredictable tale of human frailty and determination. Here, the world ends messily, like an ugly relationship, and the ways in which the characters have to put their lives back together are equally fractured. The result is not only a singular post-apocalyptic novel, but a debut you won’t want to miss. California will lure you in with its mysteries, seduce you with its secrets and haunt you long after you’ve finished it.