I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.California by Edan Lepucki
Narrator: Emma Galvin
Published by Hachette Audio, Little, Brown on 2014-07-08
Genres: Dystopia, Dystopian, Family Life, Fiction, Literary, Science Fiction
Length: 12 hrs, 26 mins.
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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 despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can't reclaim, they seek comfort and 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 but 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 its own dangers. 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 irrepressible resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
California is Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, and she won the jackpot when Stephen Colbert talked it up on his show. California caught my eye though because it’s a futuristic book set in my home state, and dystopias set in your own backyard just add that extra layer of creepy. California is about a marriage, a cult-like community, and surviving when the unthinkable happens.
This book focuses on the day-to-day struggles of living in this new post-apocalyptic reality. There is not a lot of pages spent on the hows and the whys – world-building junkies might not be satisfied with the vague explanations of how things got so bad. But since I like character-driven books I was satisfied with a little mystery. Actually being in the dark about certain things just made my mind imagine all sorts of bleak scenarios.
California centers on Cal (California is a nickname) and his wife Frida, a couple in their late-twenties. They took off alone once Los Angeles fell apart, living in the woods in their own self-sufficient bubble. Once they suspect Frida is with child though they decide to head back to civilization to raise the baby. The new community they enter may not exactly be the safe haven they hoped, and secrets and new alliances create friction between Cal and Frida. Plus, there are no children in this settlement- raising alarm-bells for the parents-to-be.
Though this book is written with an adult reader in mind, I consider this a crossover book. The characters read pretty young, and I think YA readers of post-apocalyptic fiction may like this one. The only thing is there isn’t a ton of action; this is more of a quietly sinister book.
The characters in California are flawed and not particularly likeable and Frida especially will try your patience. It is easy to connect to the situation that the characters are in and envision this dark near future though. The fact that the characters hold you at arms length kind of makes the reading experience that much more unsettling.
I jumped at the chance to experience the audiobook version of California since Divergent’s Emma Galvin narrates it and I felt it would be a perfect fit. However, though I am a fan of this narrator, this was not my favorite performance. This is a tough one because on the one hand this book is kind of quiet and introspective and so the audiobook livens up the story. I know I’m more patient with slower books in audio format. There was something a little off about this performance though with the cadence and phrasing that took me out of the story. I do like Galvin’s tone and her subtle performance that fits with the vibe of the book. Just a few technical things made this listen a little uneven.
Check out an audio sample of California:
If you are a fan of realistic post-apocalyptic books (or even the TV show LOST) you may enjoy reading California. Edan Lepucki writes an entertaining story and I kind of want to know what happens next.