Thursday, April 7, 2016

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Luz and Ray are squatting in an abandoned mansion in Southern California after a natural disaster has wiped out most of the water supply. They're free yet aimless, and when they find themselves responsible for a toddler they've rescued from an abusive situation, staying put no longer seems feasible. Yet many obstacles - natural, man-made, and internal - stand between them and a better, wetter world...

What I Thought: Gold Fame Citrus is a book you read for its words and its world - surreal and mythological, punctuated by short stories that flesh out the mysterious sea of sand encroaching on what had been Los Angeles. The barren beauty of the prose matches the setting well, and the book's metaphorical components work both as symbols and as fun bits of weirdness in and of themselves. Watkins' two main characters also feel pleasingly real; I could relate to both Luz and Ray even when they succumbed to their own individual weaknesses.

The second half of the book, however, is much weaker than the first, relying more heavily on cliches and tropes from post-apocalyptic fiction. Watkins has done an amazing job setting up her world, but once she gets down to populating it with people other than her central trio (Luz, Ray, and baby "Ig") she doesn't seem quite certain where to go from there. That impression might be my own expectations betraying me, however - I was expecting more of a travel story/Odyssey once Luz and Ray set out on their journey, and when the second half of the book ended up centering around just one stop, in a cult headed by a mystic who claims to be a dowser capable of finding water in the sand dunes, I was disappointed. Gold Fame Citrus did a terrific job at evoking a mood, however, and for that I still recommend it to anyone who wants to be transported to a world both strange and familiar.

Readalikes: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block, for more survivors of a ruined, poetic world; The Water Knife by Paolo Bachigalupi, for more fiction about the Southwest and its coming water crisis

Or look this book up on NoveList!