The much-anticipated first novel from a Story Prize-winning "5 Under 35" fiction writer. Read more...
The much-anticipated first novel from a Story Prize-winning "5 Under 35" fiction writer.
In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins's story collection, Battleborn, swept nearly every award for short fiction. Now this young writer, widely heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent, returns with a first novel that harnesses the sweeping vision and deep heart that made her debut so arresting to a love story set in a devastatingly imagined near future:
Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal, phantasmagoric landscape. With the Central Valley barren, underground aquifer drained, and Sierra snowpack entirely depleted, most "Mojavs," prevented by both armed vigilantes and an indifferent bureaucracy from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon, two young Mojavs--Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the "forever war" turned surfer--squat in a starlet's abandoned mansion. Holdouts, they subsist on rationed cola and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.
The couple's fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place, and for the moment, it seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger: sinkholes and patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal, omnipresent sun. Ghosting after them are rumors of a visionary dowser--a diviner for water--and his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes.
Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins's novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own.
From the Hardcover edition.
Book Clubs: Prize-winning stories
Winner of the 2015 National Book Award, Adam Johnson’s Fortune Smiles is a first-rate collection of short stories that explores timeless topics such as relationships, politics, sacrifice and love, treating them in ways that feel specific and fresh. In “Nirvana,” a techie finds a unique way to cope with his sick wife—by developing an app that allows users to talk to the president of the United States. The main character of “Hurricanes Anonymous” tries to locate the mother of his son in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine” tells the story of a former Stasi prison official who is trying—unsuccessfully—to escape the past. The six narratives in this wide-ranging collection are enlivened by the author’s sense of black humor and evident compassion for the human condition. Johnson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2012 novel The Orphan Master’s Son, delivers a smart batch of stories that’s sure to get book groups talking.
HIGH AND DRY
In her debut novel, Gold Fame Citrus, Claire Vaye Watkins offers a chilling dystopian look at a drought-ravaged future. In barren Los Angeles, erstwhile model Luz Dunn keeps company with surfer Ray Hollis, a former soldier. They camp out in the deserted home of a movie star, ignoring orders for mandatory evacuation and surviving on plundered rations. Despite their grim prospects, the two fall in love, and when they take an abandoned child into their fold, they’re determined to create a more promising future. Taking to the road, they search for a desert commune founded by water finder and survivalist Levi Zabriskie. But the going is filled with difficulties, including looters, evacuation enforcers and the hardships imposed by the landscape itself. Watkins presents an unforgettable portrait of California as an oasis-turned-waste-land, and her prose style is marked by a haunting poeticism. A timely narrative that’s certain to resonate with readers, this is a remarkably accomplished first novel from a visionary writer.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Geraldine Brooks delivers another expertly wrought historical novel with The Secret Chord, a compelling retelling of the life and times of King David of the Bible. Chronicling David’s rise, from his early days as a shepherd to his ascension to the throne of Israel, the novel brings to vivid life many Old Testament characters, including David’s wife Batsheva and son Solomon. The tale is narrated by Natan, a shepherd and prophet who predicts a dark future for the king. Brooks presents David as a man of contrasts—at once wise and impulsive, gentle and savage, humble and arrogant. She demonstrates an expert command of her historical material, presenting a full-bodied account of the legendary leader. Brooks’ many fans will find the novel a worthy companion to her previous historical narratives, which include People of the Book and the Pulitzer-Prize winning March.