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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Cal and Frida live in a post-apocalyptic world, but the days and nights of these former L.A. residents aren't spent battling rampaging gangs or nests of zombies. Their life in the wilderness is rigorous and spare, but their devotion to one another gets them through. When Frida becomes pregnant with their first child, the apprehensive couple decides to seek a larger community. Instead of calming, their move to a nearby settlement brings new complications and even dangers. Edin Lepucki's near future novel possesses an integrity and singularity that thoughtful readers will appreciate.

Library Journal
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
Publishers Weekly
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)
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

Kirkus Reviews
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.

Product Details

Little, Brown and Company
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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Meet the Author

Edan Lepucki is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a staff writer for The Millions. Her short fiction has been published in McSweeney's and Narrative magazine, among other publications, and she is the founder and director of Writing Workshops Los Angeles. This is her first novel.

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California: A Novel 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Twink More than 1 year ago
California is Edan Lepucki's debut novel. I am infatuated with dystopian and apocalyptic novels. The description of California immediately caught my eye... "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 a shack in the wilderness, working side by side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship.....But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is turned upside down when Frida finds out she's pregnant." There hasn't been a great nuclear war or one significant event that has heralded the end of the world that Cal and Frida knew. Instead it has been a series of natural disasters and reluctant but necessary acceptance of the way things are now. Society has eroded into the haves and the have nots. While Cal and Frida make their home in a shack, those that can afford to, live in safe, gated communities with food, health care and more. I immediately thought that this scenario is not that far off - having just read a newspaper story of water being turned off - the city of Detroit sprang to mind. I wanted to know to know more about the erosion of society, but this isn't the focus of the book. Instead it is what comes after. I also wanted to know what lay beyond the woods that Cal and Frida have settled in. Are the rumours of other outsider settlements true? I'm always fascinated by an author's world building in such novels. Lepucki does a good job imagining what might be. I think because it is so 'near future' and absolutely believable that the world of California is all the more chilling. There are a great number of varied characters populating California. Of the two lead characters I was drawn to and empathized with Cal. I have to say that I didn't like Frida at all as I found her spoiled and selfish. But several of the players from 'beyond' the woods really captured my interest. Much, if not most of the book, is focused on the characters and their interactions - between couples, family, friends and strangers. A society rebuilding does not necessarily learn from it's past mistakes. Much of what happens can be sadly predicted. Lepucki infuses this rebuilding with a plot that was slowly (and a bit maddeningly) revealed. The buildup to the end in the last quarter of the book is tension and action filled and had me reading just another chapter before bed. But the actual ending left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled. I found it anti-climatic after the journey to get there. It's a bit nebulous, leaving the reader to their own inferences as to what happens going forward. Still, California was a strong debut and I would be interested in reading Lepucki's next novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Post-apocalyptic stories are generally my favorite so I was drawn to read this book.  I was excited as It was a take on the end of the world that wasn't necessarily about zombies or full on war.  It had promise but really fell short.  The writing is good, settings are intriguing, but to be honest Frida and Cal are pretty delusional, unlike-able characters.  There marriage is weak at best - much of the novel is spent lying and keeping things from one another.  Frida is childish - it is mentioned that Cal sees her as this strong independent woman but she doesn't act a bit like this.  Cal is supposed to be this rugged, intellectual hipster - but he doesn't think much through and is irrationally paranoid.  As for the plot itself it started out strong, but really falls short quickly.  The flashbacks are inconsistent and generally confusing.  Overall this really would have been much better if it just focused on the fall of society.  Would have been more interesting than what's here.
cstmoi9322 More than 1 year ago
It starts out great, pretty promising. But then it goes south quickly and the ending seems like there must have been a deadline to meet. I almost quit reading it but made myself see it through. Disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was tempting to fast forward through parts of this book as the pacing was so slow and the plot so obviously silly. Not the worst book I have read, but definitely not one I would recommend for others to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although it took a few chapters to really get into the author's writing style, I did eventually get caught up in the storyline. I was VERY disappointed in the ending of the book. Since I purchased the eBook, I was quite shocked when I reached the end. I thought for sure that I somehow did not get all the chapters. Too many things left hanging. Even if the plan is to write a sequel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would have given this book 5 stars had it not been for the horrible ending. It just stopped out of nowhere leaving the story unfinished. Hoping there is a sequel in the near future otherwise I wasted my time and money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poorly written. Hated all of the characters. Starts off well then quickly makes a turn for the worst. Does the author actually know the meaning of the word feminist... Very fustrating how the characters refuse to really question or speak to each other for a multitude of chapters. Would have read better as a short story. All you need to know: turkey baster, the color red, a lover of baking, a lover of farming, a terroristic brother, a small crop of people surround by spikes with no kids, another crop of people who are better off, a big mouth and then the very lucky to be alive couple gets even luckier due to their own stupidity.
InnerYarnZen More than 1 year ago
Loved the story, writing style drew me in to their world, and then! WTH like OH its due tomorrow? let me end it now. Stupidest ending of all time, I want my 300 pages of my life back.
Drewano More than 1 year ago
I found this a bit tough to rate. I liked the premise and the execution with the author going back in time to show how the world broke down, and to give context to current events. However there are two main issues, first I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likable. Cal and Frida seem emotionally stunted, and many of the others are manipulative or mean. My second issue is that there doesn’t really seem to be a plot. The characters are focused mainly on what happened in the past and then right at the end it seems like the author said “OK time to finish this up” and threw together an ending that doesn’t resolve anything. I guess my two cents are if you’re looking for an interesting look at what life might be like in the future with rising fuel costs and a growing population take this for a spin. If you’re looking for a good story probably best to skip this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not a fan of the genre, but my book club chose it, so I read the whole darn mess. The premise was promising. And that's really the only good thing I have to say. I'm not sure the author really knew her characters, so how is the reader to get to know them? Did they love each other? Eh, hard to say. Was Micah a hero or a terrible villain? I have no idea. The author's attempt to craft genuine, multi-faceted characters resulted in a tangle of overly dramatic people whose every word and deed confused me. Foreshadowing works well when, at the conclusion, the reader exclaims, "Oh! NOW I get it!" Alas, I don't get it. I suspect the ending hints of a sequel. If not, I REALLY don't get it. Regardless, I would not torture myself by reading the next mess.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Look it up on google images at baby in bee costume. Itll make your day &#9786 to the maxx!!! &hearts yall, -popcicles_2003
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I almost quit reading it but I am glad I did not. I love the writing style and I liked the main characters Frida and Cal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love dystopian novels for the most part.Just not this one,Its long,interesting here & there,but no, it gets a little step-ford ish.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not quite finished with the book but it is very good. You find yourself getting wrapped up in the experiences of the characters and you look forward to what will happen next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never quit reading a book once I start, but I did with this one. I simply couldn't get interested due to the very slow pace and uninteresting characters. I guess I need more suspense than this book could provide.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First few chapters were alright,downhill after that.didn't know if I was going to finish it.
AudiobookReviewer More than 1 year ago
Sadly, I was not in love with this. I was not in LIKE with this. I won't go so far as to say I hated it but it would not be a stretch. I'll go with the positives before I blather (most likely cause I'm a little annoyed) on about the negatives. Firstly, it started well. I enjoyed the way the mystery was starting to unfold. No idea was given as to HOW the world came to be the way it was, it just was! Really good start. And then the characters started talking... Segue into talking, let's talk narration. Oh, the narrator. I want to like this gal but her voice just kills me. I didn't realize until I turned this on that it was the same narrator as the Divergent series, and honestly if I would have known I may not have reviewed the audio version. Here's the thing, she can't do anything about her voice but there is a type of whine to it that just grates on my nerves. This on top of the whining from the main characters (more of me whining about that below) just made for a horrible combination. Although! There was one portion where she was describing a town and her voice changed for just a moment and the lines she read then were the best in the entire book. I wish she would narrate in that character rather than the much too whiny girl characters. It threw me off but sadly the story didn't help much either. My biggest gripe is that they are married and being married I understand that your spouse is not always going to be your favorite person. You may even keep a few secrets from your spouse, life goes on. With Frida and Cal they seem to not like each other and keep secrets ALL the time. What's even more frustrating is that they do not trust each other. Well, I wonder why you two idiots!!!? This theme was not just in one portion of the book but throughout the entire thing. Frustrating to say the least when you're trying to understand a character and just cannot because they whine too much and obsess over the smallest thing! Some of the mystery does come out, you find out why nobody likes the color red (which honestly still doesn't really make sense) and some other mysteries. Some of which I was able to peg before they were answered. Now, I will admit I am an apocalyptic, horror, dystopian lover so I may be a bit harsh in my judgement at the idea that these people would actually survive. I don't know really because fortunately none of that has happened. But, what has happened is that I did not like even for a moment, any of these characters. Not a one! All of them are ridiculous and there isn't any funny moments. Yes it's apocalyptic but there has to be a class clown somewhere in there! Someone to lighten the very disheartening mood, maybe? Audiobook provided for review by Hachette AUdio. Please find this complete review and many others at audiobookreviewer dot com [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
2.5 stars Those who follow my reviews will know that I just read a particularly poor example of post-apocalyptic fiction, so I followed that experience by picking up California, which Dan Chaon has described as "[s]tunning," "brilliant," and "[a] wholly original take on the post-apocalypse genre." While Lepucki's writing was a definite improvement over G. Michael Hopf's, California did not live up to my expectations. Much is made of Frida's possession of a turkey baster. It's no plot spoiler to note that the book's plot is driven primarily by Frida becoming pregnant, so why would Frida have "wondered if they [she and her husband Cal] might use it to try to get pregnant someday"? The baster never lives up to its totemic status, and the rest of the book similarly fails to fulfill its promises. Lepucki repeatedly sets up tension - over the color red, Frida's brother's death, Cal's college experiences - only to either undercut it or allow it to dissipate without any logical explanation. I have to agree with Kirkus Reviews on this one: "This has the bones of an excellent book, but, sadly, an untenable amount of flab is covering them." I received a free copy of California through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Concept good. Plot thin. Characters poor. A few surprises. Would not want to know characters if they were real life people. So novel dragged on until its sudden ending which had the makings of being interesting if more time and chapters had been devoted to the conclusion. World not fully realized. For an excellent novel in this genre I suggest reading The Dog Stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As others have said, it is an abrupt ending. Very intriguing nonetheless.