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
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)
- 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.