Review: Gold Fame Citrus

Gild Fame Citrus

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.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

17 thoughts on “Review: Gold Fame Citrus”

  1. I agree it was a good book but wasn’t it bleak?!!! And I hated the cult/abuse part – so often a part of these post apocalyptic books. I don’t hate that it gets included; more that I hate that the situation – which we may yet face – is so fertile for that to happen. Did you read Water Knife by Bacigalupi? Similar topic and setting, similar bleakness.

    1. Yeah, this isn’t a book for everyone. The title is even more depressing once you know its meaning. People flocking here for gold, fame and citrus and then realizing that that is all gone. In the book, the ocean is pretty much gone too creating sand dunes. What a picture!

    1. Am I rubbing off on you? I have to have darkness in my books. Not blood and guts but some hint at the dark side of humanity. It exists in all of us. Some are just more honest about it than others.

  2. This is one of those books I received through my Book of the Month Club subscription but never got around to reading. I am so glad to hear it is good!

  3. This sounds dark. And to be honest, anymore I can barely stand stories that feature suffering children. I’m getting soft in my motherhood.

    1. The baby in this one has a lot of waste/diaper issues since they are so low on supplies. Not abuse, really although they hint at it when she is first introduced. I can’t deal with child abuse of any kind but this wasn’t that. I’ll leave it at that. Depressing though. The scenes in the dunes reminded me of Mad Max or something.

    1. That’s what scares me the most about post-apocalyptic world… the lack of rules and the “anything can happen, and will” mentality. They manage to get high on a plant called root… hallucinations, surreal “did it really happen” scenarios. The abuse thread is subtle, very subtle but disturbing.

  4. Not in the market for something so depressing at the moment, but I’ll definitely consider it for later. Bleak has to hit a certain spot, otherwise it’s just not palatable. As always, great review ❤

  5. Definitely don’t think I could get my book club to read this one but I’m certain I will, bleak and all.

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