“Although a dystopian novel, California is not a sci-fi story; Lepucki’s focus is on the relationships between her characters and the decisions they face in this wrecked world. California is a love story set in an extreme situation, about two people trying to do their best for themselves and each other.”—
Being somewhat obsessed with food, I took note of what they ate while reading the book. This is a menu that I put together, inspired by the first 8 chapters of the book. For the most part, Frida and Cal could have cooked this. Between foraging, growing their own garden, and trading with August, they could make a simpler version of this menu.
“Her protagonist, Frida, isn’t much of a heroine. She’s annoying, self-centered and tragically naive.”—
from Sara Sklaroff’s review of CALIFORNIA in the Washington Post.
I have many feelings about this:
1. A mention of Frida’s flaws and immaturity should be paired with a mention of Cal’s. It’s interesting to me that so many readers hate on Frida, but not Cal. They’re both frustrating and difficult! For me, Frida’s flaw is that she is a brat. Cal’s? He is a coward. What do you think?
2. A couple of reviews have called Frida immature. That’s true, in some regards. But let’s review: She’s in her late twenties. Before she moved in with Cal, she lived with her parents. The world went to shit when she was very young and she never got a chance because of that. Her brother died and her parents weirdly took it out on her. She has been isolated in the woods for two fucking years. I mean…! She is doing pretty well, considering, no?
3. It seems to me that readers want unlikeable characters only if that’s the book’s”thing”—that is, if the text makes a nod to that as its project. But if a character is occasionally petty or immature or unkind, as we all can be, then it can be difficult for some readers to get over. This is fascinating to me.
4. Don’t get me wrong, Frida drives me nuts. And I love her. She is a human being.
“My editor Allie Sommer had me write a timeline to make it easier to see the story more wholly. That helped; I usually write so intuitively, crafting pretty sentences and focusing on characters, that the story, the plot, gets neglected.”—