Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Review: Golden State by Stephanie Kegan

An exquisite literary drama, with a ripped-from-the headlines urgency, Golden State asks hard questions about the limits of loyalty, and what it means to be a sister, a daughter, a wife, and a mother.

All her life, Natalie Askedahl has played the part of the good girl. Growing up as the youngest child in one of California’s most prominent political families, she worshipped her big brother, Bobby, a sensitive math prodigy who served as her protector and confidante. But after Bobby left home at sixteen on a Princeton scholarship, something changed between them as Bobby retreated deeper into his own head. Now that Natalie is happily married, with two young daughters, a satisfying job, and a house in the Berkeley Hills, her only real regret is losing Bobby.

Then, a bomb explodes in the middle of her ideal-seeming life. Her brother is accused of carrying out a lethal campaign of terrorism against California’s universities. Thrust into overnight notoriety, Natalie is torn between helping him and protecting her own family. The decisions she makes will send her down a rabbit hole of confusion, lies, and betrayals that threaten to destroy her relationships with everyone she holds dear. As her life splits irrevocably into before and after, what she begins to learn is that some of the most dangerous things in the world are the stories we tell ourselves.

Hardcover, 300 pages
Expected publication: February 17th 2015 by Simon & Schuster

Terri's Thoughts

I received a copy of the book from the publisher Simon & Schuster via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The book has just been released.

Arghhhhhhhhhhh....I wish I was a member of a book club so I could debate this story as opposed to struggling with how to express my thoughts on this one.  I will say I found the story utterly frustrating.  What I struggle with is the question was I was frustrated because I didn't like the story or because I didn't like/agree with the actions of the protagonist?  My best guess is it is the latter however it is clouding my judgement on the former.

The concept is simple.  Nathalie's brother is accused of some terrible crimes and she is conflicted with trying to defend the brother she thought she knew and coming to terms with the facts being presented to her.  The answer in my world is simple.  How can you know someone who has cut you out of their lives for more than 10 years?  How can you let it impact the life you have built when the truth is sitting right in front of you.  In my eyes, you don't.  You cut your losses and come to terms that someone is not who you seem.  He is a stranger and fond memories from childhood should not be enough to justify your loyalty to someone you do not know in your adult life.  Seems simple to me.

Alas this is not the way Nathalie handled the situation which is what caused me to be so impatient with her as I was reading.  I literally wanted to strangle her.  Then again I am viewing this from my high horse over here and I am wearing my own pair of Ugg's as opposed to walking in her shoes.  In my opinion there is only so much family loyalty that is warranted.  I love my family however I can't see myself defending any of them if they committed a violent crime just because they bought me ice cream as a child.  I certainly can't see doing it at the expense of my current family.  Call me cold but that is how I see it.

Needless to say that my view did impact my ability to enjoy the book.  I couldn't wait for it to end.  Based on that I would score this story low however standing back the fact that I am even having this inner monologue with myself has to stand for something also.  Is this not what Kegan would want?  The debate on how you would handle this situation?  Some bonus points earned back for that.

Random thought: The ironic part to this whole rant is that I have been summoned to appear for jury duty next week.  I seriously do not think that I am what they would want to help decide someone's fate!

About the Author

Stephanie Kegan was born in North Dakota and raised in the much warmer Southern California. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in history, she worked at mostly numbing jobs until she could support herself as a writer. Her new novel Golden State—coming from Simon & Schuster in 2015—explores how fragile the foundation of an ordinary life can be. She is the author of a previous novel, The Baby, many magazine articles and series of guidebooks published by Chronicle Books. Stephanie lives in Los Angeles with her family.

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