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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Lydia Kiesling’s lyrical debut turns the road trip novel on its head, transforming the great American highway into a symbol of community, not rugged individualism. After her Turkish husband is denied re-entry into the U.S., Daphne impulsively takes off with their 16-month-old daughter, Honey—plus everything you need to travel with a toddler—on a 400-mile drive across California’s high desert. Their journey becomes a quest for connection: with Daphne’s own past, the troubled small town her family left, and finally, with 92-year-old Alice, who’s on her own personal odyssey. Suffused with love and empathy, The Golden State left us full of hope.
Kiesling's intimate, culturally perceptive debut portrays a frazzled mother and a fractious America, both verging on meltdown. Thirty-something Daphne works for the Institute for the Study of Islamic Societies and Civilizations at a San Francisco university while raising her 16-month-old daughter, Honey, alone. Daphne's Turkish husband, Engin, has been denied reentry into the United States. Daphne is also haunted by the death of a student, who was traveling on Institute funds. Tired of waiting for Engin to be allowed back and reaching the edge of a breakdown, Daphne packs up Honey and heads to Northern California's high desert to take refuge in the house she inherited but rarely visits. She fixes tuna sandwiches and pancakes, finds her mother's pomegranate-themed ornaments and collectibles, and attends her mother's now nearly empty church, but the safety and emotional connection to her own childhood she seeks prove as tenuous as overseas communication with Engin in Istanbul or the local ventures that ensnare her: neighbor Cindy's anti-government, anti-immigration secessionist movement and 92-year-old Alice's scheme to visit the work camp where her husband served during World War II. Kiesling depicts parenting in the digital age with humor and brutal honesty and offers insights into language, academics, and even the United Nations. 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.
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The Golden State
A tour de force. An introduction to an incredible writer. Brava!