Title: Golden State
Author: Michelle Richmond
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Things are awry in the state of California. There is a referendum on the ballot for the state to secede from the United States of America. There are riots and people in the streets. It’s against this chaotic backdrop that Dr. Julie Walker receives word that her sister, Heather, is in labor. Julie must get to Heather, but she couldn’t possibly know what she will experience along the way.
A unique novel, Golden State serves up a close, personal story against the backdrop of larger, chaotic events. Richmond does an admirable job of keeping both narratives interesting during this character-driven tale.
Golden State starts out with an intriguing premise: the state of California is possibly going to secede from the United States. The vote is close. Things may be about to change drastically. So it’s interesting that the main plot isn’t about this momentous and tumultuous occasion; instead, it’s a quiet, personal story set against utter chaos.
Julie is in the midst of divorce proceedings when Golden State begins. It’s clear that her life has fallen apart around her. Over the course of the novel, we learn why that is and the difficult part her sister played in all of it. Julie has not had an easy time of things, and things take a turn for the worse as she gets nearer to the hospital. Circumstances force Julie to relive the worst parts of her life, to come to terms with what has happened. Richmond does a great job of keeping the tension up, making readers guess as to what really happened to Julie and why she is so broken.
The novel is told in different time periods, jumping back and forth to flesh out Julie’s history, but the reader really feels like they are just dropped into a day in Julie’s life. Much came before, and much will come after the last pages are turned. The reader is simply along for the ride. Richmond does a great job balancing Julie’s personal trauma against the exciting events going on in California; it’s not easy to create a story like this, with such different plotlines, but the author manages to make both seem urgent and important.
If you’re looking for something different, a seemingly action-packed novel that actually has a quiet, character-driven story at its core, then Golden State is a great choice. It’s got so many issues packed within its pages–politics, mental health issues, forgiveness, relationships—that readers will be riveted by this contemplative novel from start to finish.
Other books by Michelle Richmond: