The Golden State: Book summary and reviews of The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling

The Golden State

by Lydia Kiesling

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling X
The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2018
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A gorgeous, raw debut novel about a young woman braving the ups and downs of motherhood in a fractured America.

In Lydia Kiesling's razor-sharp debut novel, The Golden State, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent - her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a "processing error" - Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity.

But clarity proves elusive. Over the next ten days Daphne is anxious, she behaves a little erratically, she drinks too much. She wanders the town looking for anyone and anything to punctuate the long hours alone with the baby. Among others, she meets Cindy, a neighbor who is active in a secessionist movement, and befriends the elderly Alice, who has traveled to Altavista as she approaches the end of her life. When her relationships with these women culminate in a dangerous standoff, Daphne must reconcile her inner narrative with the reality of a deeply divided world.

Keenly observed, bristling with humor, and set against the beauty of a little-known part of California, The Golden State is about class and cultural breakdowns, and desperate attempts to bridge old and new worlds. But more than anything, it is about motherhood: its voracious worry, frequent tedium, and enthralling, wondrous love.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Kiesling depicts parenting in the digital age with humor and brutal honesty and offers insights into language, academics, and even the United Nations. But perhaps best of all is her thought-provoking portrait of a pioneer community in decline as anger and obsession fray bonds between neighbors, family, and fellow citizens." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. There's so much to love about this novel ... Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy contemporary literary fiction and can handle a few swear words." - Library Journal

"By playing with punctuation and sentence structure, Kiesling immerses the reader in the fragile headspace of the anxious new mother. With a style reminiscent of Claire Vaye Watkins and Sarah Stonich, The Golden State sparks the lovely, lonely feelings inside us all" - Booklist

"[Kiesling] is very smart, very funny, and wonderfully empathetic ... [A] skilled and promising writer." - Kirkus

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Author Information

Lydia Kiesling

Lydia Kiesling is the editor of The Millions. Her debut novel, The Golden State, was longlisted for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Slate, and The New Yorker online, and have been recognized in The Best American Essays 2016. Kiesling lives in San Francisco with her family.

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