California

California

by Edan Lepucki

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316250832
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 07/07/2015
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 279,651
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 5.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About 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.

Interviews

A Conversation with Edan Lepucki, Author of California

What inspired you to write a post-apocalyptic novel?

When I first conceived of this novel, the phrase "post-apocalyptic domestic drama" popped into my head; don't ask me why or where that phrase came from because I don't know!? Even at that point, though, the second half of the phrase—domestic drama—was just as interesting to me as the first half.? I tend to write contemporary realism about people and their interactions, so my way of approaching the novel's ruined, future world was via these characters, Cal and Frida, and their marriage.?
That said, it was by turns challenging and thrilling and scary to create the future that Cal and Frida inhabit: challenging to world-build in a way I had never done before; thrilling to wreak such havoc on the page, simply by playing pretend; and scary to ponder such a depleted and inhospitable world.

Cal and Frida's marriage isn't the only relationship depicted in this book. You also investigate a sibling relationship between Frida and her brother, Micah, a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a Los Angeles mall.? What interested you about that relationship?

I have two older sisters, a younger half-sister, and a younger half-brother, so, needless to say, sibling relationships are very important to me.? From the beginning, I was fascinated by the dynamic between Frida and Micah; I'm interested in the roles they played in their family—Micah as the brilliant one, Frida the more aimless, free-spirited one—and how close they were despite their differences.? I wanted to portray both the valuable, loving aspects of their relationship as well as its negative, emotionally damaging qualities.? I also wanted to explore how a marital relationship is different from a familial one, and how one affects the other.? How can family hurt a marriage?? How can marriage offer solace from one's family?? What can family offer that romantic love can't?? These questions continue to interest me, as a writer and as a person.

This book focuses on these intimate relationships, but it's also got a suspenseful plot.? The second half in particular is hard to put down.? Do you have any thoughts on making a novel readable?

Character is what interests me most as both a reader and a writer; if I don't find the people in a book complex and interesting, I'm easily bored.? I also like pleasing prose.? I don't think one has to sacrifice either to get a compelling story.? I often ponder what John Gardner calls a "foreplay paragraph": writing that hints at big reveals to come, but that's so good on the sentence level that you don't want to skip ahead.? That's what I aim for when I am writing!? I love novels that whisk me into another world completely, whose pages turn without effort?but which boast lovely sentence rhythms, evocative imagery, and dynamic characters.? Jennifer Egan's work springs to mind, as does Tana French's.? That's not to suggest that I am in their sphere—but I'd love to join them there someday.?

What other authors inspired California?

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite novels, and all her work, the speculative stuff as well as the realist, delights and inspires me.? I love her droll humor and the way she critiques gender roles.? The Handmaid's Tale in particular is so frightening and realistic; I wanted readers to feel that when they read my book.I actually stayed away from the post-apocalyptic genre when I was writing California, for fear of being too heavily influenced by them.? Now that I'm done with my book, I am really looking forward to reading Octavia Butler's Parable series, as well as Carolyn See's Golden Days, which readers of California have recommended to me.
Other writers are part of my literary DNA—that is, I wouldn't be the writer I am without having read them.? I owe a lot to Lorrie Moore, Victor LaValle, Michelle Huneven, Dan Chaon, Joan Didion, Antonya Nelson, Tom Drury, and John Williams.

What's your writing process like?

I write best in the mornings. If I'm at a writing residency, where all I have to do is write, I'll start working as close to dawn as I can.? In real life, though, I can't work until my son is off to daycare?so usually at about 9:30 in the morning.? On good days, I write for three or four hours.? After that, I devote the rest of my work day to teaching and reading and answering emails.? I am not one to outline—I like to follow my intuition and let the story surprise me—but I do brainstorm in a journal; I'm usually just a few scenes ahead of the manuscript. I always write on my computer, and I always write in order; I wish I could skip around, and follow what inspires me, but I need to tap into the emotional tenor of the current dramatic moment in order to drive the story.? I love to fiddle with sentences, though over the years I've gotten better at moving forward even if a paragraph isn't perfect. I'll have to rewrite anyway, so polishing everything feels a bit foolish. At the same time, I take joy in sentence-making, so I let myself revel in that. As for writing process in general, I say: pay attention to yours, whether you're slow and steady, or intermittent and fast, or somewhere in between?and honor that inclination.? Don't try to mimic anyone else's.

Who have you discovered lately?

I just finished reading Motor City Burning by Bill Morris, a rich and textured novel about 1960s Detroit and its inhabitants.? It's sort of a crime novel, sort of a character study about two men—a white cop and a young black man; Morris writes about race, rage, violence, and justice with grace and compassion.? Detroit itself comes alive.
A month or so ago I read The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton?and I don't know what took me so long.? Its heroine Lily Bart is magnificently complex—her flaws are severe but her motives make sense and she is thoroughly, heartbreakingly human.? I would read this masterpiece immediately again if I was brave enough; the story just about slew me!

Customer Reviews

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California: A Novel 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The main protagonist is truly awful. I made myself finish it.....I wish I hadn't
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The ending was disappointing but I also didn't want it to end... In line with that, I wanted all the characters to be developed just a little more but (or because) I feel like I got to know them.
WorldReader1111 More than 1 year ago
I liked 'California,' and on multiple levels. The book is, first, very well-written (for my tastes when reading fiction, at least). The author employs a simple-but-elegant narrative, oddly appropriate for the subject matter, that shines with poignant descriptions and perceptive nuance (while still remaining fluid and easy-to-read). The characters are well-drawn and believable, and the story follows a coherent and satisfying arc (with a comfortable page-count, too). Likewise, the plot and its context are intelligent, and realistic enough to allow a suspension of disbelief. I laughed several times, too, and that's never a bad thing. For these reasons, I consider 'California' to be successful as a solid, readable novel. However, the book contains an additional, deeper layer of substance, and it was this that I found most valuable. Namely, this fictional story exhibits some of today's biggest non-fictional issues, from the social to the psychological to the institutional, with some wise insights as a result. Besides addressing the ever-present concern of modern civilization's dependency on technology and industry (and the potentially dire consequences of such), 'California' forces us to confront the consensual, and often flimsy, nature of our modern conventions, mental and physical alike. Thus, the author offers a particularly sober take on the true, fragile reality of the way-of-life seen in much of the present-day world; and, however much this territory has been given literary treatment over the decades, these matters are, I believe, just as relevant today as ever (especially when presented so attractively). When I finished the book, I felt to have been fed some good food-for-thought (as well as entertained). If I had to list a negative, it would be some awkwardness in the story line from time to time. But, ultimately, this was a minor complaint, and failed to detract from my overall enjoyment. My thanks goes out to this book's author and publisher. I am grateful for, and have benefited from, your work and service.
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!]