Excerpt from The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Golden State

by Lydia Kiesling

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling X
The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2018, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2019, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michael Kaler
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

DAY 1

I am staring out the window of my office and thinking about death when I remember the way Paiute smells in the early morning in the summer before the sun burns the dew off the fescue. Through the wall I hear the muffled voice of Meredith shouting on the phone in laborious Arabic with one of her friend-colleagues, and in my mind's eye I see the house sitting empty up there, a homely beige rectangle with a brown latticed deck and a tidy green wraparound lawn to its left, a free-standing garage to its right, and beyond that an empty lot with juniper shrubs and patches of tall grass where the deer like to pick. Technically it is a double-wide mobile home, although it does not look mobile—it's not on wheels or blocks; it has a proper covered foundation, or at least the appearance of one, and could not be mistaken for a trailer. Technically I own this house, because my grandparents left it to my mother and when she died she left it to me.

The house is waiting for an occupant; my uncle Rodney, who didn't need it and thus didn't inherit it, has been paying someone to come every month to tend the geraniums and cut the grass for the last five years. He pays for a low, persistent hum of electricity and gas through the winter so as to avoid the effects of a hard freeze. The idea is that someone will one day want to buy this house, and my uncle Rodney is keeping it nice until then, I suppose as a favor to me.

I hear Meredith send valedictory kisses through the phone and amid the sparkling glass and chrome splendor of the Institute I see the faux-wood paneling of the house and the nubbled brown upholstery of my grandmother's two soft couches, still in situ with the rest of her furnishings. And then I feel something tugging—first from across the Bay, the dingy living room where Honey and six other babies spend ten hours a day toddling, then from the long stretch of road, nearly four hundred miles of road, leading up to the high desert. And then I stand up from my office chair and open the right-hand desk drawer and put a Post-it on the petty cash box noting my outstanding debt of $64.72 to the petty cash fund, and after a moment's hesitation I put the Dell laptop and charger paid for with endowment income from the Al-Ihsan Foundation into my bag. And then I turn off my monitor, slip on my ill-fitting flats, call goodbye to Meredith ("Have a good night," she calls back, at 10:00 a.m.), and walk out of the building and down the main walkway through campus, the Bay before me and the clock tower at my back.

On BART I stare out the window and consider why it is that I am homebound at 10:15 in the morning with my eye to the northeast. The morning was not worse than most mornings. The alarm went off at six and I hit snooze six times at 6:10 6:19 6:28 6:37 6:46. Honey called from her crib like a marooned sailor and I guiltily left her there to take a shower after calculating the number of days without, four, too many. Then half-dressed and still dripping I pulled her wailing from the crib and wiped her tears changed her diaper replaced her jammies gave her kisses carried her to the kitchen. I put her in the high chair and gave her a fistful of raisins and realized there were no eggs or yogurt or fruit, which meant oatmeal, which takes an additional eight minutes by the most optimistic estimate, and so because of my own late start and the absence of the eggs I had to rush her through breakfast, and lately she hates to be rushed, hates to have things cleared away before she is ready, so when I took the oatmeal away she started wailing and when I carried her into our room she screamed and stiffened and threw her body back against my arms, a great dramatic backward swan dive with no regard for whatever might lie behind. And when I hustled her onto the floor to get dressed and held up the onesie and tried to invest her in the process like they say you should she started shrieking and thrashing anew and it felt very distressing, very critical, very personal, and I gripped her arms tightly, too tightly, arriving at a threshold of tightness that felt dangerous but obscurely good in a way I wouldn't care to investigate further. And then I tugged the onesie over her head looked at the time put my own head in my hands and sobbed for thirty seconds.

Excerpted from The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling. Copyright © 2018 by Lydia Kiesling. Excerpted by permission of MCD. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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