Excerpt from California by Edan Lepucki, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio


by Edan Lepucki

  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2014, 400 pages
    Jul 2015, 400 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Frida marveled at how quickly Sandy and Jane got across the creek. They knew which rocks would hold them and which ones were slippery with algae and should be avoided. Jane was barefoot like her brother, but Sandy wore hiking boots. Once across, she introduced herself and her two children. Jane was seven. Garrett was three. Up close, Sandy looked older: the face of a woman who worked outside without sunscreen.

"Bo and I," Sandy said, "we've been watching you two for some time. Making sure you were safe."

Frida nodded slowly. She and Cal hadn't counted on a family of spies. Making sure you were safe. Did that mean they were judging them, or protecting them?

"The birds!" Garrett cried. He was pointing at Frida now, as if he had just figured something out.

Frida raised an eyebrow.

"We took to calling you the birds," Sandy explained. "As in lovebirds. You two sure do like each other."

In a different context, Frida might have blushed. Instead she said, "It's cheaper than going to the movies." She was trying to keep her eyes off Sandy's chest. Her overalls had shifted in her commute across the water, and one breast, all nipple, peeped out from the bib, its tip long and knobby. It reminded Frida of a caterpillar.

"You're living in our shed," Sandy said. She didn't seem mad, and so instead of apologizing, Frida thanked her for building it.

"I assume you don't want us to move out. It was empty when we arrived."

"Oh no, we love that you're there. It's where Bo and I first settled. We built that well you're using, you know. We like the little outdoor kitchen and fire pit you've added. I told Bo it was proof of your ingenuity."

"How long have you been here?" Frida asked.

"Forever," Sandy said.

That was the thing about the Millers: they never got specific. It was easy to deduce they'd arrived at least seven years before, since Jane was born on the land, but that was as much as Frida could figure out on her own. Sandy and Bo wouldn't say where they were from, either, though Los Angeles didn't seem to register much familiarity on their faces, nor did Cleveland, where Cal had been raised. It wasn't that their speech was accentless but that it shifted, from bland to twangy and back again in a single conversation. Once, Bo wore a Duke shirt, but Sandy said she'd gotten it from a friend, years and years ago. "Be protective of your past," she finally told Frida. "Our children don't need to know too much about ours."

On that first meeting, Sandy told her the names of the fish in the creek. "We don't know what that one's called," she said, pointing to a thin silvery one, "so we call it a princess." Frida wished she had a Device that worked, to take notes. She hadn't felt this happy in—maybe ever. Sandy's eyebrows were light as dandelion fuzz, and Frida loved the surprise of them. She hadn't realized how tired she'd gotten of Cal's face.

Sandy offered to help Frida with her laundry, and Frida accepted. Garrett ran up and down the creek, collecting rocks, and Jane stayed to help the women. Frida hadn't been taking much notice of her until Sandy said in a stern voice, "Hand that over." When Jane hesitated, Sandy snatched Cal's red bandanna out of her daughter's hand. She threw it to the ground as if it were on fire, her eyes squeezed shut.

"You okay?" Frida asked.

"She likes red," Sandy said. She affected a breezy laugh, but there was something shaky and nervous behind it. "We don't let her have too much of it."

"Sorry, Mama," Jane whispered.

The next time Garrett sped by, Frida tried to keep her voice casual. She didn't want to freak Sandy out again. "What's with his shirt?"

Excerpted from California by Edan Lepucki. Copyright © 2014 by Edan Lepucki. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Off-the-Grid Living

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
  • Book Jacket
    by Tom Jackson
    Growing up in Mumbai in the '70s, I still remember herbs kept fresh in small glasses of water, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    North of Crazy
    by Neltje

    The remarkable life of a woman who carves her own singular path.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.