California

California

2.7 49
by Edan Lepucki
     
 

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The highly acclaimed, instant New York Times bestseller that "shows the moment-by-moment reality of a painful possible future, the price we may have to pay for our passionate devotion to all of the wrong things." --Sarah Stone, San Francisco Chronicle

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los

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Overview

The highly acclaimed, instant New York Times bestseller that "shows the moment-by-moment reality of a painful possible future, the price we may have to pay for our passionate devotion to all of the wrong things." --Sarah Stone, San Francisco Chronicle

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
05/05/2014
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)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-15
The end of American civilization has come and gone, and a young married couple has fled Los Angeles to live in the wilderness in Lepucki’s debut novel.Cal and Frida, alone in the woods, provide for themselves—but once Frida becomes pregnant, finding more of civilization’s refugees becomes important, especially since their only neighbors have committed suicide. They find an encampment surrounded by spikes and are invited to be candidates for the group. They will stay with the community, making friends and learning the ropes, until the other commune members vote on whether they should stay or leave. Soon they discover there are dangers even in this relatively secure place. They notice there are no children in the group, so they hide Frida’s pregnancy. Other unsettling details emerge as the couple tries to win the commune over—Frida by baking, Cal by serving as a member of the community counsel. The color red is forbidden. Surprisingly luxurious supplies arrive—but from where? The counsel is full of secrets, and the leader forbids Cal from sharing them with Frida. One character, thought to have died in a suicide bombing before Cal and Frida struck out for the wild, is miraculously alive at the commune, after the couple spent many pages grappling with his death. This is a misstep on Lepucki's part, showing the reader that she isn’t above bending the rules, which makes it more difficult to feel real concern for Cal and Frida. They will never be in too much trouble; Lepucki won’t allow it. The chapters alternate between Cal’s point of view and Frida’s and are heavy on flashbacks that bog down an otherwise tense narrative of survival.This has the bones of an excellent book, but, sadly, an untenable amount of flab is covering them.
From the Publisher
An NPR best book of 2014

A New York Times Bestseller

A Los Angeles Times Bestseller

A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller

An Indiebound Bestseller

"Rewarding....[One of] 30 books you NEED to read in 2014." ---Huffington Post

"Edan Lepucki's first novel comes steeped in Southern California literary tradition....One thinks of Steve Erickson or Cynthia Kadohata, or Carolyn See, whose 1987 novel Golden Days ends with the nuclear holocaust." ---David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

"Noteworthy....Lepucki's debut is an inventive take on the post-apocalyptic novel, about a couple who moves from an isolated existence in the wilderness to a guarded community that, they soon realize, harbors terrifying secrets and unforseen dangers." ---Laura Pearson, Time Out Chicago

"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

"An ambitious, powerful, frightening first novel...California shows the moment-by-moment reality of a painful possible future, the price we may have to pay for our passionate devotion to all the wrong things." --Sarah Stone, San Francisco Chronicle

"Lepucki gives readers the most welcome surprise--in a dystopian novel, anyway--of flashes of humor. Many of her witty touches make reference to the familiar details of life in 2014, and what happens to them in the future." --Cleveland Plain Dealer

"An expansive, full-bodied and masterful narrative of humans caught in the most extreme situations, with all of our virtues and failings on full display: courage, cowardice, trust, betrayal, honor and expedience. The final eighty pages of this book gripped me as much as any fictional denouement I've encountered in recent years....I firmly believe that Edan Lepucki is on the cusp of a long, strong career in American letters." ---Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

"Stunning and brilliant novel, which is a wholly original take on the post-apocalypse genre, an end-of-the-world we've never seen before and yet is uncomfortably believable and recognizable. By turns funny and heartbreaking, scary and tender, beautifully written and compulsively page-turning, this is a book that will haunt me, and that I'll be thankful to return to in the years to come. It left me speechless. Read it, and prepare yourself." ---Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply

"This thrilling and thoughtful debut novel by Edan Lepucki follows a young married couple navigating dangers both physical and emotional in a wild, mysterious post-collapse America. It's a vivid, believable picture of a not-so-distant future and the timeless negotiation of young marriage, handled with suspense and psychological acuity." ---Janet Fitch, author of Paint it Black

"Edan Lepucki is the very best kind of writer: simultaneously generous and precise. I am long been an admirer of her prose, but this book---this book, this massive, brilliant book---is a four alarm fire, the ambitious and rich introduction that a writer of her caliber deserves. I can't wait for the world to know what I have known for so many years, that Edan Lepucki is the real thing, and that we will all be bowing at her feet before long." ---Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures

"It's tempting to call this novel post-apocalyptic, but really, it's about an apocalypse in progress, an apocalypse that might already be happening, one that doesn't so much break life into before and after as unravel it bit by bit. Edan Lepucki tells her tale with preternatural clarity and total believability, in large part by focusing on the relationships -- between husband and wife, brother and sister, parent and child -- that are, it turns out, apocalypse-proof. Post-nothing. California is timeless." ---Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

"California is a wonder: a big, gripping and inventive story built on quiet, precise human moments. Edan Lepucki's eerie near future is vividly and persuasively imagined. She is a fierce new presence in American fiction." ---Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia

"There's been no shortage of apocalyptic scenarios in our recent literature. What makes Edan Lepucki's novel so stunning is that her survivors don't merely resemble us, they are us, in their emotional particularity and dilemmas. The result is a book as terse and terrifying as the best of Shirley Jackson, on the one hand, and as clear-eyed and profound a portrait of a marriage as Evan Connell's Mrs. Bridge, on the other. California is superb." ---Matthew Specktor, author of The American Dream Machine

"In her remarkable debut California, Edan Lepucki has conjured a post-apocalyptic vision that is honest, frightening, and altogether too realistic. At times disturbing and often heartbreaking, California is an original examination of the limitations of family and loyalty in a world on the verge of collapse." ---Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street

"Edan Lepucki's novel California kept me up for five nights. This was a problem. However, I was not just tired, but often worried for the characters, for our world, and then astonished and laughing at her skill with humor and lyricism even in the fearful landscape. It's a ruined place, yes, but the bonds of family, and the betrayal of blood, are as true as every in her surprising imagery and her complicated humans, who could be any of us." ---Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales

"Breathtakingly original, fearless and inventive, pitch perfect in its portrayal of the intimacies and tiny betrayals of marriage, so utterly gripping it demands to be read in one sitting: Edan Lepucki's California is the novel you have been waiting for, the novel that perfectly captures the hopes and anxieties of contemporary America. This is a novel that resonates on every level, a novel that stays with you for a lifetime. Read it now." ---Joanna Rakoff, author of A Fortunate Age

"California is carefully drawn and beautifully textured. It's a pleasure to watch love and family transform in this dark, strange forest." ---Ramona Ausubel, author of A Guide to Being Born and No One is Here Except All of Us

"When the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper, you want a guide whose insight into the subtle revolutions of the heart are as nuanced as her perceptions about the broken world are astute. In prose witty, seductive, and exacting, Lepucki reminds us that, in the after-life of social collapse, it's not only the strongest willed, but the most compassionate among us, who must rebuild. California is an epic of interiors." ---Shya Scanlon, author of Forecast

Library Journal
07/01/2014
Two years ago, Frida and Cal made their way out of Los Angeles to live in seclusion, off the land, away from the violence of terrorists such as the Group, which tore the world apart, and the Communities, which cater to only the wealthiest clientele. They have adapted to their new lives, but when Frida becomes pregnant they worry for the safety of their unborn child. Not far from their cabin is a settlement called the Land, which is purported to be unwelcoming to visitors. Despite their reservations, Frida and Cal make their way there, hoping to find assistance if not acceptance. What they discover is both surprising and unsettling. VERDICT While this debut novel has some potential as a disturbing postapocalyptic thriller, it stumbles in its execution. The characters don't evoke a lot of sympathy and the ambiguous ending leaves readers hanging. [A July LibraryReads pick; Stephen Colbert promoted the book as a response to the Amazon-Hachette dispute (ow.ly/y71R0).—Ed.]—Karin Thogersen, Huntley Area P.L., IL

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316250818
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
07/08/2014
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
541,812
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

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