Sunday, July 27, 2014
California by Edan Lepucki
3.0 out of 5 stars --- This is just another in the long list of "end of life as we knew it" novels, and certainly not remotely comparable to the books written on the subject by such brilliant authors as Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood. The hype surrounding it after the onair plug was not about how good this was, but about a fued between Hatchette and Amazon and I only chose it because I was led to believe, erroneously, that this debut had some new fresh perspective or slant that merited its praises. I don't think it did.
Frida and Cal -- well, these were two unlikable and shallow 20 somethings who leave LA after its decline and fall for a life off the grid somewhere probably in nearby southwestern California but that's never clearly stated. They don't do so well on their own and once Frida believes she's pregnant, she is even more dissatisfied with their lonely existence. They leave their appropriated house in the woods and manage to stumble onto the Land. And in the most amazing coincidence, they find someone there they both know. Life on the Land is tedious and banal and hard but since Frida is "people who need people", she is determined to stay and convinces Cal that he is too. Actually it's all fairly boring and nothing happens and then nothing happens except they find out some stuff and there's a problem. All the characters in this book were poorly developed and none had redemptive qualities that made me garner up any emotion except to hope the book ended quickly. And it did, with a ridiculously pat conclusion that was unsatisfying and not worth the reading time.
The writing -- the dialog, the vocabulary, the repetition, the word choice (Land, Forms, Spikes, Group) did not impress or invite my imagination as often none of it made any sense. The explanation for why this part of the world was why it was never really got explained and the makeup of the community wasn't very diverse considering the population that exists in California now. There was no apocalypse, but a bit of social commentary about all the factors that are on our radar -- global warming, weather patterns, spread of illness, overuse of electronics and reliance on power, etc.
I'd advise you to skip this one and look for other books in this genre that have fresh new perspectives and three dimensional characters that can generate some feelings in the reader other than distaste. I could see this used in a book group discussion where members are comparing and contrasting books of this type.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the e-book ARC to review.