30 August 2016

Today's Read: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Review: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye WatkinsCan you envision a future in which California must be evacuated because of drought? Would you stay or go? How would you cope with the encroaching desert sands? Luz and Ray live in that future and must decide how best to survive.

Punting the prairie dog into the library was a mistake. Luz Dunn knew that now, but it had been a long time since she'd seen a little live thing, and the beast had startled her. She'd woke near noon having dreamed a grand plan and intending to enact it: she would try on every dress in the house. They hung like plumage in the master closet, in every luscious color, each one unspeakably expensive--imagine the ones the starlet had taken with her!
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead, 2015, p. 3)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Southern California, in the not too distant future.
  • Circumstances: Luz and Ray, struggling to survive in drought-ridden California, are squatting in the house abandoned by a movie star. After meeting some creepy people when on a food scrounging mission, they begin to envision a different future for themselves in the still green east. The only trouble is the secrets they're hiding make it difficult for them to obtain evacuation passes. With the help of a dubious friend, they hatch a scheme to escape to the still verdant east.
  • Genre: adult dystopian
  • Themes: relationships, friendships, cults, environment, conspiracy theories, survival, parenthood
  • Characters: Luz, an ex-childhood actress; Ray, a military veteran, and Luz's boyfriend; Lonnie and his followers at a co-op along the coast; Levi and his followers at a desert community; various other people both along the coast and in the desert
  • Thoughts in general: I really wanted to love this book because I enjoy dystopian fiction and I liked Vaye Watkins's short story collection, Battleborn. Unfortunately, her novel fell flat for me. The premise was good and believable: California is already experiencing major drought, so it didn't take much imagination to extend that situation into the future. The setup was solid, and I was invested for the first 75 pages or so, but then the plot seemed to spin out of control.
  • What I didn't like: The characters' motivations were often murky, and their inner thoughts were either (I'm sorry to say) boring or in the WTF realm. I was frustrated by their choices. Despite this, I was committed enough until a point just past three-quarters of the way through when a character "magically" gets out of a predicament. Without spoilers, let me say this: at one point Ray has a major problem; a little while later he no longer has that problem, but we have no clue how he solved it. Really? You took me this far, at least tell me how he gets out of the bad situation. Sigh.
  • Recommendation: I cannot in good conscience recommend this book, even to die-hard adult dystopian lovers. I really should have DNF'd it, but by the time I hit my breaking point, I was too far along. However, note that Gold Fame Citrus has received ALL THE STARS: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, and BookList, for example, sang the novel's praises. It was also a Book of the Month Club pick. I, however, didn't feel the love.
  • Audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Penguin Audio; 10 hr, 27 min) read by Jorjeana Marie and MacLeod Andrews. Their performances were okay but could not compensate for the book's flaws. I truly have nothing else to say about the production; I'm just so mad at myself for not bailing on the book.


sjhigbee 8/30/16, 6:28 AM  

I reviewed this book earlier in the year. I take your point about many of your problems with the book. However, I did enjoy the writing though found the characters increasingly unpleasant. I suspect it read better than it sounds - if that makes sense! Thank you for your enjoyable review. My TT this week is something quite different - https://sjhigbee.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/teaser-tuesday-30th-august-2016/

rhapsodyinbooks 8/30/16, 7:17 AM  

I also did not feel the love.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 8/30/16, 7:45 AM  

I've heard so many versions of this review for this book...wanted to love it, gorgeous writing, but something just didn't all come together.

Kailana 8/30/16, 8:35 AM  

That is too bad this didn't work better for you!

Sherry Fundin 8/30/16, 9:31 AM  

Too bad you don't recommend it. Punting the prairie dog mad me laugh.
sherry @ fundinmental My TT

Heather Fineisen 8/30/16, 10:25 AM  

I had this on my list but now I'm rethinking it. Sorry it as a disappointment. Happy Reading on the next pick.

bermudaonion 8/30/16, 10:26 AM  

I'm not big on dystopia so I'll probably skip this.

Laurel-Rain Snow 8/30/16, 11:03 AM  

The scary possibilities would keep me from reading this one, as I don't even want to think about this situation, much less spend time reading about it. Not a big fan of dystopian books. LOL.

Thanks for sharing, though, and for visiting my blog.

Tina 8/30/16, 11:27 AM  

Before I saw you label this Dystopian lit I was thinking, yesss...apocalyptic lit and I needed a new author! I think I will pass on this one.

Nise' 8/30/16, 12:24 PM  

I tried to get into this novel but put it down. Not sure if I will pick it up again.

Sandra Nachlinger 8/30/16, 12:27 PM  

It's so disappointing to get into a book and be let down. Sounds like a great premise, especially since California has been experiencing drought. Too bad it didn't pan out.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I apologize for the typo. I really do know how to spell dysfunctional, but late at night my internal spell-checker sometimes malfunctions!

Alice Audrey 8/30/16, 12:40 PM  

What a great teaser! I can see that prairie dog flying now.

Cleo Bannister 8/30/16, 3:51 PM  

I'm quite glad you don't feel you can recommend this one as I'm not a fan of dystopian fiction so wouldn't have chosen it. That said it is a shame when you devote time to a book which you really should have put down in favour of something better.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 8/30/16, 7:28 PM  

I wasn't wowed by that intro even though it sounds like it has potential.

Yvonne 8/30/16, 8:29 PM  

This sounds like it could be good. I'm not sure. Interesting choice.

Daryl 8/31/16, 9:53 AM  

i, too love dystopia, but i also usually share your POV so thanks i will skip this ...

Literary Feline 8/31/16, 5:26 PM  

I'm sorry this one wasn't better for you. The premise does seem pretty realistic--at least given the recent drought scares we've had here in California. I don't think I'd stay, personally. :-)

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