Gold Fame Citrus
By Claire Vaye Watkins
Published by Quercus
Available in hardback and ebook
Sand has swallowed up California - once a place where people floated to for fame and fortune but is now a place where people can no longer escape. Travel is restricted. Gold Fame Citrus is a mesmerising novel about a dusty world where people still manage to cling to hope.
Yet there are two people who do not want to leave, Luz and Ray, who survive on black market food, water rations and cola. Squatting in a mansion, abandoned by an actress, they set about on 'projects' to keep themselves occupied but then a mysterious child comes into their life, turning their plans upside down. The little girl deserves a better life than the once they can offer, and so they must find it for her, leaving behind their life, and trek across the sand so they can become a family, have a better life, be normal.
But the desert is not as barren as the media makes out. After losing Ray, Luz comes across a community who live on the edges of the dunes with a charismatic leader who takes a fancy to Luz. He can find water where others can not. His followers treat him like he is their saviour. Luz finds herself being lured into the leader's arms. The dunes surround this community, protecting them from the outside world.
Watkins' debut novel, Gold Fame Citrus, explores the force of nature, and the power of people in a push and pull battle to control the land with a sprinkling of conspiracy theories, cults, parenthood and relationships. The writing style and also subject matter of ordinary people who's lives are turned upside down by ecological disaster reminded me of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake mixed with Mad Max with desert tribes ready to set upon each other if people dare to question their faith.
This is a great first novel, and I can see Gold Fame Citrus making it onto a few literary prizes shortlists this year. You can buy Gold Fame Citrus from your favourite bookshop.
The publisher kindly sent me a copy.