Gold Fame Citrus
By Claire Vaye Watkins
Riverhead Books, Hardcover, 9781594634239, September 2015, 352pp.
The Short of It:
Gold Fame Citrus is about a dry, brittle world and the desperate people clinging to hope within it.
The Rest of It:
Southern California’s landscape is drastically changed by drought. Water rationing, scavenging for food and supplies and rogue bands of people called Mojavs roam the earth in search of water and a better life.
Luz and Ray, holed up in an abandoned Beverly Hills mansion make an excursion trip to the bottom of the hill and encounter a child by the name of Ig. The people that Ig is with, don’t appear to be her parents and the signs of neglect are hard for them to ignore. They decide to take the child and raise her as their own. This is a rash decision given their lack of supplies and the fact that neither of them have experience caring for a toddler but they venture out of the hills, thinking that if they can get far enough away, their lives will take a turn for the better.
This is a tough book to read. The subject matter is bleak and depressing. Watkins does a stellar job of describing the landscape but since I am a resident of Southern California, the drought we’ve been living with these last few years has really taken its toll and this book magnifies that times twenty. As I said, this is a depressing story.
Everyone in this book is just so dirty and filthy and desperate. At one point, drugs enter the picture in the form of something they call root and it lends a surreal feel to what is already a bad situation.
None of this sounds good, does it? But somehow, it is good. I’ll admit, it does get a little cult-y when it all turns into one hippie love fest but I seriously could not stop reading.
I had planned to pitch this book to my book club but feared that the subject matter would be too much. I think I was correct in thinking that but there is plenty to discuss with a group should you decide to read it.
Oh, and in case you are wondering about the title, the title is fully explained in the book but it has to do with what people come to California for… gold, fame and citrus.
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