The Golden State

The Golden State

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 “proc...

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Title:The Golden State
Author:Lydia Kiesling
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Golden State Reviews

  • Tyler Goodson

    The Golden State is a novel of sparse landscape and deep emotion. When Daphne and her baby drive to the high desert of Northern California, they are alone in a way that feels enervating and dangerous. Daphne is written with such a strong sense of feeling, it inevitably carries over to the reader. You are filled with love for Honey, Engin, the old crone Alice, and hate for the unfairness of the situation they have found themselves in. I was so sad for this novel to end.

  • Laura

    Have I ever read a book like this? I mean, a book that really understands and dignifies the daily mixture of work and boredom that comes from spending your day with a toddler? I don't think I have. I always get annoyed by kids who get paraded around in books or on television as convenient props that disappear so adults can have meaningful conversations or go out on important errands. Nope. Uh-uh. That is NOT what life is like. Lydia Kiesling knows that if you're a mom and you're tired, you've go

    Have I ever read a book like this? I mean, a book that really understands and dignifies the daily mixture of work and boredom that comes from spending your day with a toddler? I don't think I have. I always get annoyed by kids who get paraded around in books or on television as convenient props that disappear so adults can have meaningful conversations or go out on important errands. Nope. Uh-uh. That is NOT what life is like. Lydia Kiesling knows that if you're a mom and you're tired, you've got to find a way to keep your toddler safe or go through the mental guilt complex of letting your kid zone out in front of a screen. If you're a mom and you need to get somewhere, you've got to schlep all the stuff. I've never read a scene that better captures what it is like to try to take a toddler to a restaurant or figure out whether to leave the kid in the car or risk taking her out of the carseat. She writes about dying to get the baby to sleep then wanting to snuggle so you wake the kid up again. About juggling an umbrella and a squirming toddler, about love and frustration and guilt all at once. I just got completely swept up in this character's thoughts. The inner conflict was so familiar it was palpable. I recognized every thought that entered Daphne's mind as she tried to care for her daughter and care for herself and do right by her employer and her husband and her new friend. (Except the desire for a smoke!)

    This would be a great book club choice for moms who can handle a little blue language. I loved the way the sentences flowed without commas, creating that constant urgency and patter of worry that runs through a mom's mind. This was a winner for me & I'm on board for whatever she's got in store for her next book. It made a day with outrageous flight delays go by pretty quickly, all things considered.

  • Jaclyn Crupi

    Kiesling did not come to play. If her aim was to evoke the tedium and bright love of parenting, the infernal frustration of dealing with racist and Islamophobic bureaucracy, the stomach-dropping feeling of complicity in hazy situations, she has nailed it. I love novels where the plot is launched with a woman running away from her life and Daphne is such a well-drawn character she pulls you in and suddenly you care deeply about her, baby Honey and the people they meet.

  • Michael

    Set in the High Desert of California,

    explores the emotional trials of early motherhood. The novel, written in the stream of consciousness mode, centers on the inner life of Daphne Nielsen, a new mother who suffers a nervous breakdown at the novel's start and flees her university job in San Francisco. Daphne drives to the desert town of Altavista, where she has inherited a mobile home from her grandparents; there, she has nothing to do but take care of her 16-month-year-old daug

    Set in the High Desert of California,

    explores the emotional trials of early motherhood. The novel, written in the stream of consciousness mode, centers on the inner life of Daphne Nielsen, a new mother who suffers a nervous breakdown at the novel's start and flees her university job in San Francisco. Daphne drives to the desert town of Altavista, where she has inherited a mobile home from her grandparents; there, she has nothing to do but take care of her 16-month-year-old daughter Honey, encounter her strange neighbors, and cope with the loss of her recently deported husband. The novel is at its most interesting when the author affords herself the chance to roam around Daphne's psyche and examine the nuances of early motherhood. Lydia Kiesling is a talented writer who has a gift for capturing the rhythms of consciousness and portraying relationships among women, and her career as a novelist seems poised for success.

  • Autumn

    I saw a review of this book that said they didn’t like the stream of consciousness or lack of punctuation. This made me laugh because that’s exactly why people love ULYSSES. In many ways, this book is like ULYSSES. It’s nine days in the life of a 30-something who’s trying to juggle raising a child and helping her Turkish husband get his green card back. But it’s actually more than that. It’s about the racism at the heart of this country (yes, even in California) and the search for meaning. Which

    I saw a review of this book that said they didn’t like the stream of consciousness or lack of punctuation. This made me laugh because that’s exactly why people love ULYSSES. In many ways, this book is like ULYSSES. It’s nine days in the life of a 30-something who’s trying to juggle raising a child and helping her Turkish husband get his green card back. But it’s actually more than that. It’s about the racism at the heart of this country (yes, even in California) and the search for meaning. Which is more than can be said for ULYSSES. It’s also an amazing and realistic look at motherhood where motherhood is not an art form or a burden but just a thing that is. And where the mother realizes that the child is her own person. So good. Far exceeded my expectations.

  • Bailey

    I was so undecided on this one most of the way through - it's more literary than what I usually read and enjoy, but at the same time it cuts through to some issues that are pressing (the banal horror of immigration issues) and endlessly fascinating/horrifying (the State of Jefferson backers), and for that reason I couldn't put it down.

    It reminds me in ways of Woman No. 17 and After Birth and And Now We Have Everything, in that it's very concerned with who we are as women outside of being mother

    I was so undecided on this one most of the way through - it's more literary than what I usually read and enjoy, but at the same time it cuts through to some issues that are pressing (the banal horror of immigration issues) and endlessly fascinating/horrifying (the State of Jefferson backers), and for that reason I couldn't put it down.

    It reminds me in ways of Woman No. 17 and After Birth and And Now We Have Everything, in that it's very concerned with who we are as women outside of being mothers, as if the state of being a mother can ever be separated from that of being a woman once it exists.

    The last 50 pages were absolutely riveting. I wish I had felt the urgency of the end a little more through the book, but it was worth it to get to the end.

  • Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog:

    “This is my house, ” I say aloud, and everything in the house contradicts me, down to its dubious foundation.

    It is to this house in the desert of Altavista with her baby girl Honey that Daphne flees, leaving behind her work at the University of San Francisco, a student who has never quite finished her PhD despite encouragement from those around her because “working at the institute has amply illustrated the precarious sh*tshow that is a life of

    via my blog:

    “This is my house, ” I say aloud, and everything in the house contradicts me, down to its dubious foundation.

    It is to this house in the desert of Altavista with her baby girl Honey that Daphne flees, leaving behind her work at the University of San Francisco, a student who has never quite finished her PhD despite encouragement from those around her because “working at the institute has amply illustrated the precarious sh*tshow that is a life of the mind”. She is a single mother for all intents and purposes as her Turkish husband, Engin is trapped by a ‘processing error’ and cannot return to the United States of America. The novel follows Daphne and Honey through the desolation their lives have become in Engin’s absence. Single despite the occasional Skype with Honey’s daddy, a tiresome thing, Skype when her life is already consumed by meeting her child’s needs and demands. A desert seems a fitting place, because this is a sort of desert period for Daphne. The house is her grandparent’s mobile home, her mother is dead and it’s hers now. Her family had lived there for a long time, settled and rooted but this life doesn’t fit her.

    You can’t expect a lot of dialogue between a baby and her mother and yet Kiesling manages to make Honey a solid person, whether she is cranky and whiney or like on Day 5 kissing her mommy’s face awake. That’s how we bond though, without words and there is a beautiful intimacy in it. It gets boring at times, and you feel as bogged down as she does but at least the baby is always real, present unlike so many stories where children are unnaturally silent the entire novel. I dont’ think such children exist in reality. Right now, ‘conversations are work’ and Daphne seems to both welcome and hate this self-imposed exile. She thinks Ellery and Maryam, having met their doom and compares the young women to her own very much alive child. But it’s a thought she doesn’t like to feed on, and in some strange way may shoulder a bit of blame for, or maybe not, can you bear the blame of fate’s whims? She should be opening emails, dealing with whatever mess she has jumped ship from back at the university, but she cannot find the wherewithal do it. She is in a sort of strange in-between time so many mother’s are familiar with after the birth of a child. Daphne plus one.

    She meets the locals, and explains she works for an institute that studies Islamic studies which naturally begs the question, “Like Isis?” Daphne studies the language, and how countries share an islamic past. Bring up Muslim and hackles raise with a cry of Isis, which is often a shamefully believeable reaction in our country. She absolutely defends her husband and all the Muslims who don’t go around ‘blowing people up’ and plotting terrorism, yet this also isn’t the point of the novel. Despite this, she and Cindy become friends of sorts, even though she doesn’t agree with her ‘ideology.’ The biggest group of people are ‘State of Jeffersoners’, not the sort of group her husband Engin (if he ever returns to her) will be able to tolerate. The possibility of a life where her family’s people have been since the 1800’s just may not be a viable option for her. She gets caught up, somewhat, in the secessionists who don’t want to deal with ‘urban problems’. Generations of people who feel the government is robbing them of the resources they’ve always had to themselves. She meets an old ‘auntie-type’ Alice, who has been to Turkey and serves as a sort of stand in grandma, support she surely lacks with Engin scattered to the wind and the rest of her family dead. A woman who has had much loss and sadness of her own, that far surpasses anything Daphne is struggling with. They take up together on a trip and everything goes sour, this is the climactic moment in an otherwise quiet story.

    The story touched on xenophobia here and there, but not as much as you would expect. I was disappointed that Engin was as absent for me as he seems to be for Honey and Daphne. I wondered if some bone thrown my way about their love would have made me care more. Engin aside, I enjoyed the tender moments as much as the exasperating ones between Daphne and Honey. The writing is beautiful but the story did drag often and I usually enjoy being a visitor in a character’s mind. Sometimes I felt as exhausted as Daphne. Good but nothing much happens until the very end.

    Publication Date: September 4, 2018

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

  • Elyse Walters

    Library overdrive Audiobook....read by

    Amanda Dolan

    This novel might have been good...

    Parts were engaging...

    But MOSTLY...

    I was exhausted- drained - and agitated.

    Let me try to explain...

    I ‘did’ admire the prose - FOR AWHILE -

    Wearing a puzzled semi- smile ...

    I ‘did’ enjoy parts of the story itself. I even ‘kinda’ liked the idea of what the author was going for in her style of writing. I liked it until...

    ENOUGH ALREADY...

    a reader CAN’T be expected to maintain the rhythm of intensity of sooooo much c

    Library overdrive Audiobook....read by

    Amanda Dolan

    This novel might have been good...

    Parts were engaging...

    But MOSTLY...

    I was exhausted- drained - and agitated.

    Let me try to explain...

    I ‘did’ admire the prose - FOR AWHILE -

    Wearing a puzzled semi- smile ...

    I ‘did’ enjoy parts of the story itself. I even ‘kinda’ liked the idea of what the author was going for in her style of writing. I liked it until...

    ENOUGH ALREADY...

    a reader CAN’T be expected to maintain the rhythm of intensity of sooooo much chatter!!!! It begins to feel manic- rambling on an on - or like the character is on drugs. She did smoke

    and drink as much as possible in between caring for baby Honey.

    And what a silly name for a child!!!

    Given I live in California and was familiar of the cities Daphne and her baby Honey drove through.... I was sure I would enjoy the pure adventure of this story. I did a little. They were described well -but so sarcastically delivered in dialogue with that ‘fast-chat’... my head was exploding.

    I admit to enjoying the descriptions of the mountains more than the descriptions of Honey vomiting in her car seat.

    And... at first enjoyed Daphne’s chatter-box- speaking at record speeds - quick - HURRY- get-in-every-little word & thought faster than-the-next-faster-than-the-speed of-light...was great &

    a little funny. I thought she would get these little facts and details over with quickly ( respecting our time).. so as to move on to deeper more profound storytelling- with a little more depth.

    I kept waiting...

    ...nothing much came.

    Other than women considering choosing to become a single mother may change their mind after reading this novel.

    God forbid - the poor narrator should take a breath - and god help us readers to have to listen to every tiny detail - second by second of a mother’s responsibility with a baby: feed, change diaper, cry, clean vomit, cry some more, feed again, string cheese, sweat, smoke a cigarette, drive, pee, baby cry again, mommy cry again ...while driving...

    I WAS LITERALLY DRAINED!!!

    Daphne does ALL the talking. The baby can’t talk..and the muslin husband is stuck in Turkey.. so he ain’t talkin either.

    An entire novel of Daphne’s chatter -chatter - and more chatter becomes a ‘test’ of stamina and endurance.

    Reading or listening to this novel could be compared to running a marathon. I began to walk....

    until I was crawling to the finish line. Wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

    I came through this finish line completely depleted. I’ve had more satisfying finishes.

    This one was excruciating!!!!

    2.5 stars for potential...even rating up - as there ‘is’ a story here of interest - and the writing - works in parts. A risk the author took - which I admire her for - ‘and’ drained me.

  • Diane Yannick

    I’ve been trying too many debut authors. I need to go back to my reliable favorites for a bit. The minutiae of parenting was described in detail. Way too much detail for me. Too many diapers, cheese sticks and tantrums. If you’re really nostalgic for your wee 16 month old, this could be your book as Honey is pretty cute. Motherhood is depicted realistically—frustration and pure love all mixed together. The rural town in Northern California was described with care.

    I felt that the writing was a mi

    I’ve been trying too many debut authors. I need to go back to my reliable favorites for a bit. The minutiae of parenting was described in detail. Way too much detail for me. Too many diapers, cheese sticks and tantrums. If you’re really nostalgic for your wee 16 month old, this could be your book as Honey is pretty cute. Motherhood is depicted realistically—frustration and pure love all mixed together. The rural town in Northern California was described with care.

    I felt that the writing was a mishmash that didn’t work. I enjoy stream of consciousness writing and can easily deal with the lack of punctuation and standard sentences that comes with it. However, this felt like a hybrid that didn’t pick a lane.

    The ending did not fit with the rest of the book. All of a sudden, the slow pace turns kinetic. Yeah, stuff finally happens but it’s kind of ridiculous.

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