A brilliant portrayal of a woman having an identity crisis as she totes her toddler from the frenetic pace of the big city to the relative wilderness of small-town northern California. Without the security of her husband, who is trapped overseas in an immigration nightmare, she must find her way on her own. Highly recommended. Recommended By Peter N., Powells.com
The Golden State has so much going on below the surface: single motherhood, flight from responsibilities, political upheaval, discrimination, marital distress, the frustration of authority, and coming of age all play important roles here. When Daphne abandons her job and takes her toddler out of town to her grandmother's house, she feels instant relief. Tangling with the townsfolk is uncomfortable, but she finds an ally in a 92-year-old woman who's also a stranger to the town. Kiesling's ability to give Daphne a realistic voice is amazing, and it continuously propels this story to its absolutely perfect ending. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION 5 UNDER 35 PICK. LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION'S FIRST NOVEL PRIZE.
Named one of the Best Books of 2018 by NPR, Bookforum and Bustle. One of Entertainment Weekly's 10 Best Debut Novels of 2018. An Amazon Best Book of the Month and named a fall read by Buzzfeed, Nylon, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, Vanity Fair, Vulture, Refinery29 and Mind Body Green
A gorgeous, raw debut novel about a young woman braving the ups and downs of motherhood in a fractured America
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.
"In heartrending prose, Lydia Kiesling weaves through an exploration of the political and the private, fear and love, survival and obligation, loneliness and longing." Buzzfeed, Best Books of Fall 2018
"The Golden State is a perfect evocation of the beautiful, strange, frightening, funny territory of new motherhood. Lydia Kiesling writes with great intelligence and candor about the surreal topography of a day with an infant, and toggles skillfully between the landscape of Daphne's interior and the California desert, her postpartum body and the body politic." Karen Russell, author of Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Swamplandia!
"Kiesling's intimate, culturally perceptive debut portrays a frazzled mother and a fractious America, both verging on meltdown . . . . But perhaps best of all is her thought-provoking portrait of a pioneer community in decline as anger and obsession fray bonds between neighbors, family, and fellow citizens." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"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...The Golden State sparks the lovely, lonely feelings inside us all" Booklist
About the Author
Lydia Kiesling is the editor of The Millions. Her debut novel, The Golden State, was longlisted for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize. 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. Kiesling lives in San Francisco with her family.