The Golden State (Farrar Strauss and Giroux)
In Lydia Kiesling's razor-sharp debut novel, The Golden State, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent--her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a "processing error"--Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity.
But clarity proves elusive. Over the next ten days Daphne is anxious, she behaves a little erratically, she drinks too much. She wanders the town looking for anyone and anything to punctuate the long hours alone with the baby. Among others, she meets Cindy, a neighbor who is active in a secessionist movement, and befriends the elderly Alice, who has traveled to Altavista as she approaches the end of her life. When her relationships with these women culminate in a dangerous standoff, Daphne must reconcile her inner narrative with the reality of a deeply divided world.
Keenly observed, bristling with humor, and set against the beauty of a little-known part of California, The Golden State is about class and cultural breakdowns, and desperate attempts to bridge old and new worlds. But more than anything, it is about motherhood: its voracious worry, frequent tedium, and enthralling, wondrous love.
Praise for The Golden State
“Lydia Kiesling’s first novel encapsulates the intense and often conflicting feelings of early parenthood: frustration, tenderness, isolation. By playing with punctuation and sentence structure, Kiesling immerses the reader in the fragile headspace of the anxious new mother. With a style reminiscent of Claire Vaye Watkins and Sarah Stonich, The Golden State sparks the lovely, lonely feelings inside us all.” —Booklist
“First novelist Kiesling nails the particular travails of new mothers, puts a human face on immigration issues, and adds some contemporary political commentary with Daphne’s interactions with a group that wants to secede from California. There’s so much to love about this novel . . . Strongly recommend.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Lydia Kiesling’s The Golden State is as funny and alive a story as they come.” —Elisa Albert, author of After Birth
Lydia Kiesling is the editor of The Millions. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Slate, and The New Yorker online, and have been recognized in The Best American Essays 2016. She lives in San Francisco with her family.
Photo by Andria Lo
Edan Lepucki is the bestselling author of the novels California and Woman No. 17. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Esquire, McSweeney's, and the New York Times, among others. She is the creator of the popular Instagram Mothers Before, and she she will edit a book inspired by the project, to be published by Abrams Press in 2020. She is the co-host of a podcast called Mom Rage.
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