The Golden State: A Novel (Hardcover)
“The Golden State is a perfect evocation of the beautiful, strange, frightening, funny territory of new motherhood . . . A love story for our fractured era.” —Karen Russell, author of Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Swamplandia!
LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION'S FIRST NOVEL PRIZE
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.
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.
"Kiesling’s intimate, culturally perceptive debut portrays a frazzled mother and a fractious America, both verging on meltdown . . . 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." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"First novelist Kiesling nails the particular travails of new mothers, puts a human face on immigration issues, and adds some contemporary political commentary . . . There's so much to love about this novel . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy contemporary literary fiction and can handle a few swear words." --Library Journal (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. With a style reminiscent of Claire Vaye Watkins and Sarah Stonich, The Golden State sparks the lovely, lonely feelings inside us all” --Booklist
"Kiesling is a talented author . . . with a unique voice. She’s very smart, very funny, and wonderfully empathetic . . . [A] skilled and promising writer" --Kirkus
“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. A love story for our fractured era.” —Karen Russell, author of Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Swamplandia!
“The Golden State is a rare and important novel not only because it depicts with blazing accuracy the everyday experience of raising a young child but also because it uses the quotidian to reveal larger truths about humanity’s gifts and deficits. In Lydia Kiesling’s remarkable first novel, the familiar and the foreign are not so different after all, and what we remember may not be what is. A profound book.” —Edan Lepucki, author of Woman No. 17 and California
“The Golden State is spectacularly good at rendering maternal obsession and panic. Lydia Kiesling is brilliant on our certainty that for all we feel, we don’t do nearly enough for those we love.” —Jim Shepard, author of The World to Come
“Lydia Kiesling has written a bold, keenly detailed, and distinctively female coming-of-age story about a woman who, having happily stumbled into marriage, motherhood, and a great job, must now rethink everything. Kiesling makes her patch of high-California desert as vivid a character as the secessionist next door. Beautifully, intricately written, true to life and to women’s experience in particular; full of insight and humor and memorable landscapes, The Golden State is a marvelous and captivating literary debut.” —Michelle Huneven, author of Off Course
“A big, rollicking adventure of a novel, overflowing with the kind of intense, fractal consciousness life with small children entails, the world at once collapsed and expanded infinitely, in which whole lifetimes are contained in each and every single day, Lydia Kiesling’s The Golden State is as funny and alive a story as they come.” —Elisa Albert, author of After Birth