Review: California

California by Edan Lepucki
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Colbert tried, but Lepucki’s characters killed the hype train. I mean, it was exciting watching Stephen cause mayhem with Powell’s charts. The comment sections on that site are a bit anemic, so the boost was nice. But, maybe he should have read the book first. I don’t want to sound mean, but really.

This book has a bit of the television show LOST’s vibe, but without the deep secrets, mystery, science fiction, and violence. Or without the enriched characters. Especially without the enriched characters. It’s a bad sign when the book’s author admits to the New York Times that “[p]eople seem to hate Frida” (one of the two protagonists). And she’s right. I’m not fond of women characters who believe “her job was not to ask questions.” Boring, that’s what that is. Give me a woman with some spunk. Some flavor. Some get-up-at-cha. I don’t want some laid back character that goes to the river to do laundry and comes back just to spread her legs.

It’s all just a bit…juvenile. We’re told this book compares to THE ROAD, but I don’t think a Pulitzer-prize-winning author would write, “He’d give his left nut for a new book…” I don’t think the main character would wear a p-y inspector t-shirt. Nor do I think two different characters, on two separate occasions, would say, “take me to your leader,” and then ruminate how they sound like an alien-movie actor. And even though the characters at times seem to hate each other, they love to have sex. I guess that’s because there were “No female students. No Internet porn. No neighborhood girls to fantasize about.”

While we’re on that topic, I don’t think it was a good idea to try to offend a majority of the American market. Having all your characters turn away from Christianity is one thing, but describing Christians with the f-bomb is a huge no-no. At least if your goal is to sell more books.

The secrets weren’t all that special. Even at page 351, we’re lead to believe there’s more behind the door, but “You’re better off not knowing.” A character said it right, “It’s not something to be so blasé about.” That’s what most of it was: blasé. One-hundred pages waiting for a vote: blasé. A dude not mentioning something about his day: blasé. There’s a town in the distance: could be interesting, but ends up—blasé.

Sorry, I have to get a couple more things off my chest. I don’t care about the turkey baster. It keeps coming up; I’ve read many paragraphs about it; I don’t care. Again, nothing interesting to see when it was all revealed. As for the fear of the color red (everything from red clothing to paper cuts were shunned), then why talk about that fear while cutting up presumably red apples? And, not mentioning that you may have seen someone wearing a belt three years ago? I don’t think that will destroy your relationship.

In the end, I get what Colbert was trying to do, but it just makes the bubble burst all that much louder. This novel was mildly interesting, but with comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and with Colbert’s hype train, it was a letdown in the end.

Here’s an interesting factoid: with all that’s going on, the author coincidentally calls out Amazon in her book. She mentioned some of the Community (post end-of-world cities) names are, “Bronxville, Scottsdale, Amazon, and Walmart.” Should we not buy books at Walmart, too? Nah.

Thanks to Little, Brown for sending this book to me for review. Sorry it didn’t work out this time.

You can preview this book on Amazon (and see the other reviews): California: A Novel

Or, you can follow the spirit of what Colbert is saying and view this book on Powell’s:

by Edan Lepucki



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