Tuesday, February 16, 2016
California by Edan Lepucki
If you like: small treasurers * Occupy * pioneering
After years of dwindling resources and increasing unease, the normal way of life we know today has faded away in California. The rich have escaped to gated Communities, where they have control over everything and can hoard the limited remaining resources for themselves. Activist groups have protested this change, and their actions have led people to rush to the safety of Communities even faster, leaving the rest of the world to become a desolate wasteland. Frida and Cal have left the unrecognizable LA behind them and moved into the woods on their own. Over time they meet neighbors and learn of a mysterious group who live on land surrounded by ominous spikes. Once Frida realizes she is pregnant, she and Cal must decide if they should seek out the safety of a group, or contemplate the dangers of living isolated in the world with a baby.
What I liked:
Lepucki has done a masterful job building a dystopian future. Unlike so many stories in which one specific catalyst has led to a calamitous future, California shows a future of slow and inevitable decline. In her world, we are only a few natural disasters, droughts, and shortages away from this future. You can almost hear the rallying cry of Occupy groups in the underpinnings of her activists. The rich hide themselves away and deny what goes on beyond their walls -- except when it comes to doing the dirty work. They will always need others to do that. At the same time, the slow decline of lower class life has a depressing realism. Learning to live without one thing at a time is something that we have all experienced when we hit financial hardships.
The dynamic between Frida and Cal is a very familiar one. In some ways, they are a couple that makes perfect sense, but also seems like they are together by default. Over time you see the depth of their feelings for one another. The transition from regular life, to hard times, to pioneering, and then reintegration puts them through the gamut of relationship struggles. Reaching difficult times is one of the things that will make or break a relationship. Some people have the ability to dig deep and realize that getting through things is always easier together, and some refuse to accept a new relationship paradigm. Lepucki’s portrayal of the difficulties of isolation and subsequent emergence is also fascinating. As couples spend time together they develop something akin to their only language and culture. The isolation Frida and Cal spend years in magnifies this to the extreme. Seeing their evolution solidifies the core of their story.
If you like gathering artifacts from your life before, read California.
Lepucki, Edan. California: A Novel. Little, Brown and Company, 2014. Kindle Edition.