Summary and book reviews of California by Edan Lepucki

California

by Edan Lepucki

California
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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.

1

On the map, their destination had been a stretch of green, as if they would be living on a golf course. No freeways nearby, or any roads, really: those had been left to rot years before. Frida had given this place a secret name, the afterlife, and on their journey, when they were forced to hide in abandoned rest stops, or when they'd filled the car with the last of their gasoline, this place had beckoned. In her mind it was a township, and Cal was the mayor. She was the mayor's wife.

Of course it was nothing like that. The forest had not been expecting them. If anything, it had tried to throw them out, again and again. But they had stayed, perhaps even prospered. Now Frida could only laugh at the memory of herself, over two years ago: dragging a duffel bag behind her with a groan, her nails bitten to shit, her stomach roiling. Grime like she'd never imagined. Even her knees had smelled.

She thought it would be easier once they arrived; she should have known better. The work ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What meaning do Frida's artifacts hold for her? How do they serve as a connection to her former life? If you had to abandon your life, what sentimental items might you keep?
  2. Do you think Frida and Cal's interactions with August and the Millers helped to keep them sane in the wilderness? How do you think their experience would have been different had they been totally alone, without other human contact?
  3. Have you ever had a relationship, romantic or otherwise, that could have withstood the pressures of isolation that Frida and Cal's marriage is subject to?
  4. Do you think Cal and Frida were unprepared for what they found when they left LA? Why or why not? Do you think there was anything they could have done to prepare ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

For some, the dystopia might not be “dystopian” enough - the disconnect between what we know and what Lepucki imagines coming across as incongruous at best. Yet there’s plenty to root for in California. It is chilling precisely because so much of it feels so real - and so darned close. It doesn’t take a wild stretch of the imagination to know that such a life might be waiting for us, just around the corner.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (612 words).

Media Reviews

The Los Angeles Times

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.

Time Out Chicago

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 unforeseen dangers.

Huffington Post

Rewarding....[One of] 30 books you NEED to read in 2014

Kirkus Reviews

This has the bones of an excellent book, but, sadly, an untenable amount of flab is covering them.

Library Journal

While this debut novel has some potential as a disturbing post-apocalyptic thriller, it stumbles in its execution. The characters don't evoke a lot of sympathy and the ambiguous ending leaves readers hanging.

Publishers Weekly

A suspensful debut...[builds] to an explosive climax that few readers will see coming.

Booklist

[T]oo much disquisition through conversations, and the plot falters, but the settings are haunting and Lepucki’s inquiry into the psychology of trust, both intimate and communal, is keen and compelling.

Author Blurb Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
In her arresting debut novel, Edan Lepucki conjures a lush, intricate, deeply disturbing vision of the future, then masterfully exploits its dramatic possibilities.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Off-the-Grid Living

off-the-grid adobe houseIn California, Frida and Cal Friedman are forced to live off the land without electricity or running water, growing the food they eat. While the couple has no choice but to adopt such a lifestyle, off-the-grid living has been gaining traction in contemporary society. Traditionally, the term refers to living without public utilities, particularly electricity. One doesn't have to be cut off from the food system as well to qualify. However, in recent years, off grid living has taken on a wider connotation - of somebody living apart from, or under the radar of, modern society.

The motivations for going off the grid can include environmental and economic concerns and a desire to lead a homesteader's life. Even if most home alterations (...

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