Erica's Reviews > California

California by Edan Lepucki
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Haha, this is narrated by the same woman who narrates the Divergent books so this sounds like the alternate Tris and 4bias story.

Alright, so...I made a poor decision in choosing this one. After I read karen's review, which, by the way, would make a fine opposing viewpoint to this review, I knew it would be a story that irritated me. But, see, we were having computer problems and I couldn't get Overdrive to work so I went to Hoopla and they had this there, front-n-center, and I ... after all the buzz and Sherman Alexie-ing (and I really like that guy) and Colberting and Down-with-Amazon!ing well, I just thought I'd give it a shot.

I can't one-star this because there is a plot and the writing is fine and there's nothing technically wrong with it.
I just couldn't believe the premise.

That was the thing: I could not believe the story. None of it. My skepticism started with Cal and Frida. How in the hell had they survived for 2+ years on their own in the wilderness? They're morons! Complete and utter imbeciles. They should have been eaten by a bear in the first chapter. My problem began when Frida (I started calling her Frito in my mind just to make her more entertaining because I hated her)(HAAAATE) was late with her period and decided that meant she was pregnant. There were discussions here and there about "Are you sure? Because maybe you're not for this bunch of reasons," but it was never seriously doubted, her pregnancy. Now, ok, let's break this down:
Cal and Frito had both come from a crumbling society but were still well-fed and relatively healthy.
Cal and Frito left the crumbling society for Reasons and have been living in the wilderness for 2+ years.
Cal and Frito suck at hunting and their gardening seems limited to beets (this is the real reason you liked this story, isn't it, karen?) Frito can find mushrooms in the forest, though Cal really can't.
Cal and Frito should have lost a LOT of weight on their new lifestyle plan: eat raw foods and whatever rabbit they can ensnare + work all day on surviving and homesteading + SEX all day, every day + stress over the world ending, etc. All extra fat = GONE!
SO! Why is Frito still even able to have periods after 2+ years of this new lifestyle plan? Why hasn't her body stopped using precious resources to bleed? That's what a body often does in times of extreme duress, weight loss, and when in survival mode, especially when a body has been soft and pampered and not used to any of this stuff. It's going to protect itself and stop having periods. So why didn't that happen? Six months in, sure, I could buy a pregnancy. 2+ years of eating mushrooms and beets and having a lot of sex and hard labor and very little protein? No.
From there, everything else fell apart for me. I couldn't buy into the whole premise of the story, ergo, there was no story.

Other gripes:
-Cal is a creeper. His fondest dream has been to be trapped alone in the world with only Frida and his dream came true! He looks at her a lot, just watching her because he looooves her with all his heart and possessive nature. He has a thing for 1950's American societal norms and wants to be the next (and last) Ozzie and Harriet which...why did he marry someone who is always talking about how she doesn't have to do what men want her to do because she is a human and a person and blah blah blah?
-Frida is a giant waste of words. She is an ardent feminist in lipservice but never in action. She's shallow. She may have some sort of disorder that is never addressed but that seems to drive most of her behavior. She's pretty out of touch with reality. I really do not understand how she's survived at all! And you know what really chapped my hide? Frida takes her first good shower in ten bajillion years and you know what she does? She shaves. She shaves and is thrilled to be hair-free again. This is the mindset I could not get over. A woman who has been "surviving" in nature for over two years, a woman who has supposedly had to let a lot of stuff go, a FEMINIST who believes women and their images, roles in society, and general actions should not be dictated by the opinions of men...is excited about shaving her fucking legs and armpits. And then she goes on to judge another woman, one who is actually good at surviving and homesteading and being part of a culty team, for having hairy armpits. OMG! Seriously? This is what Frida does. She constructs a ghost of a shell of her former life around her so that she doesn't have to deal with her actual environment and it's frustrating because there are no consequences to this behavior. She's not eaten by a bear, she's not trapped in a cave under fallen rocks, she's not sold into slavery by the roaming bands of pirates (what?), etc. (view spoiler)
-The forms?/spikes: Why are they so scary? They're super big, right? Like 6+ feet? No one is going to accidentally impale themselves on these things, they're too tall. Are they all razor-edged so that if you get too close, you get sliced up? Even if that were the case, you don't actually have to try to squeeze between them, though if they're not all razory, why wouldn't you just squeeze between them? I had no idea what this was all about, why they were so scary, and how they kept out intruders. I also didn't understand how so many could have been created and erected in five years. Was it five years? It was a short amount of time and there were limited resources so...no. Didn't get that.
-The children! Why won't someone think of the children? Well, because if you think of them too hard, none of it makes sense. Not even a bit. I was all, "WHAT??? Is this serious? No, it can't be. It is? WHAT?"
-Logic doesn't work in this place.

Here are the list of questions I wrote down while reading this, though I will skip the ones I've asked above:
1) Why does the idea of pregnancy set off a sudden and unconvincing need to be with other people? I know why I would want that but I don't understand why she does.
2) Isn't Cal from a farm? Why, then, is he so damn worried about everything in nature? Why is he so bad at nature, actually?
3) Why has the world run out of mountain lions and swordfish? Why are there so many bears and coyotes?
4) Am I getting an anti-feminism message from this? Frida is supposedly all Woman Power! but makes herself look stupid in that regard. It seems there's an underlying message about the superior health of women who are sexually active, who find domestic tasks to be pleasant, who are submissive helpmates to men, and who have rid themselves of the notion that their opinions matter.
5) Does a person know if carrots are bland if one has been foraging and living off the land for 2+ years? It seems carrots would be anything but bland after a diet of beets, mushrooms, and the occasional rabbit. But what do I know. My palette is highly unsophisticated.

Ok, so, if this is actually a cutting social commentary on how our reliance on technology, our allowance of ease, and our encouragement of monopolies to control all our resources will create a societal breakdown in, what? two or three generations from now, it's an ok story. It shows that people need to understand how to take care of themselves, need to understand where resources come from, how trade works, how things are made and they need to learn to do so before it's too late because otherwise, the world is going to devolve into gated communities for the rich and everyone else will be struggling to survive, dying, dead, or enslaved as menial labor in gated communities for the rich. Oh...hey, wait up. We might be there already.
As a post-apocalpytic survival story, though, this doesn't fly. You're not going to get any helpful tips on what to do if you go homesteading in the California wilderness once LA is dead.
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Reading Progress

July 14, 2014 – Started Reading
July 14, 2014 – Shelved
July 14, 2014 –
0.0% "Hmm. The idea of willful ignorance in the name of safety, self-induced fear to control one's environment, and all of this within a generation of where we are today is kind of scary, kind of intriguing."
July 15, 2014 –
0.0% "I'm not so much into Frida. I sort of want to deck 'er."
July 15, 2014 –
48.0% "It is very important to know that the woman IS MISSING A FRONT TOOTH! Because this is the second time it's mentioned since we've entered The Land. I'm not sure why it's surprising that anyone is missing teeth; you'd think in a land without dentistry, it would be more notable that everyone else still sports shiny, non-gaped choppers."
July 21, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 82 (82 new)


Karlyflower *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)* I started reading this review and had that exact response when you mentioned her thinking she was pregnant..... but how, no, ermmm are you new to life, woman?! All sorts of things fuck up the mensies.... diet, weightloss, excessive exercise and definitely ALL FUCKING THREE AT ONCE!! Erg!



Stupid women are stupid!


Erica And she's in the her late 20's! It's not like she's 14 and hasn't had the benefit of a formal education.


Karlyflower *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)* See!! This is what I mean..... and the feminist only in speech bit makes me teethgnash! I hate that!


Erica Well, luckily, I'm one of the few who had this reaction, so...maybe it's not as bad as I make it out to be?


Sara Thank you! Yes!
Spoilers below.

I thought with Bo and Sue that this novel was going to rip apart the apocalyptic nostalgia for patriarchy. But then they suddenly die and we get Frida baking. Lots and lots of baking. I can't believe that a chapter in the book's climax starts with "I thought we'd try breadsticks today."


Erica Sara wrote: "I thought with Bo and Sue that this novel was going to rip apart the apocalyptic nostalgia for patriarchy. But then they suddenly die and we get Frida baking. Lots and lots of baking. I can't believe that a chapter in the book's climax starts with "I thought we'd try breadsticks today."

RIGHT???
Yeah. Way to miraculously survive (I really don't know how they managed) so you could...go back to the Way of the Kitchen? And of course we need people to make our food and baking really is super fun but I don't know that I'd be satisfied with being The Little Wife after not being eaten by bears for 2+ years.

Though...now I kinda want breadsticks.


Todd Tyrtle Thanks for this thread - it makes me very happy. SUCH a disappointing book.


Erica Todd wrote: "Thanks for this thread - it makes me very happy. SUCH a disappointing book."

No, thank YOU for enjoying the thread and being one of us...one of us...
It makes me feel less alone in my opinion of the book.


Todd Tyrtle Wait, one of you? Does this mean you are not a fan of containment?


Erica What?
I love containment!
As long as it's not me being contained.


message 11: by Todd (new) - rated it 2 stars

Todd Tyrtle Erica wrote: "What?
I love containment!
As long as it's not me being contained."


Yay! Good thing I'm not pregnant or you'd have to send me to live in Celebration, Florida.


message 12: by Todd (new) - rated it 2 stars

Todd Tyrtle Also: Even though my partner has not yet read the book (and will be unlikely to ever read it), I had to read her your review. She also loved it. SO much more entertaining than the book.


Erica Todd wrote: "Yay! Good thing I'm not pregnant or you'd have to send me to live in Celebration, Florida."

Oh, but you might be pregnant! All you have to do is think you are and BAM! Pregnant. It is that easy.
Hahaha! I'm glad this review makes for a good read-aloud. :)


Wendy Darling Really enjoyed your review, particularly subbing Frito for Frida, because GAWD that woman was a bore. Had all the same gripes and problems with logic as you did. Bleh.


Erica Wendy Darling wrote: "Really enjoyed your review, particularly subbing Frito for Frida, because GAWD that woman was a bore. Had all the same gripes and problems with logic as you did. Bleh."

Thank you!
I would have liked Frida/Frito a lot better had I been able to eat her and then wipe the salt and grease from my fingers. I mean, I still would have felt a little gross afterward, but at least the crunch would have been fun.
Mostly, though, it heartens me to know there are others out there who just did not love this book. We can be a tribe.


message 16: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Why has the world run out of mountain lions and swordfish? Why are there so many bears and coyotes?

Especially since it's set in California. I mean, I guess we have more bears and coyotes than we do mountain lions, but lions aren't endangered now. And they are more likely than bears to want to eat people so you'd think the apocalypse would help them out.


message 17: by Jake (new) - rated it 1 star

Jake Interesting about her shaving when she gets in the shower. I'm only a few dozen pages into the book, and I've been looking through reviews to see if I should continue--so far I'm not enjoying the time spent in Frito's head. And one the straws--maybe not the last one, but close--is that her first thought upon meeting the Millers is that she hopes the guy can teach her husband how to shave, because she's bored with him having a beard all the time. Really, that's a big issue? And this comes only a few pages after learning that a porcupine once walked across her path and she got so freaked out she wouldn't go for a walk in the woods again for two weeks, apparently leaving her husband to fetch water in addition to trying to catch animals and tend their garden.

I don't know, maybe calling her Frito will help, but I'm really not sure I can spend another 300 pages with this ninny.


Erica Miriam wrote: "Especially since it's set in California. I mean, I guess we have more bears and coyotes than we do mountain lions, but lions aren't endangered now. And they are more likely than bears to want to eat people so you'd think the apocalypse would help them out."

RIGHT? I know! None of it makes any sense at all.

Jake wrote: "Interesting about her shaving when she gets in the shower. I'm only a few dozen pages into the book, and I've been looking through reviews to see if I should continue--so far I'm not enjoying the the last one, but close--is that her first thought upon meeting the Millers is that she hopes the guy can teach her husband how to shave, because she's bored with him having a beard all the time. Really, that's a big issue?"

Hmm. Well...Yeah, if you're alarmed that her first thought upon meeting other people is, "Maybe now my husband will get rid of this beard he's been sporting," I'm not too sure you're going to be overly pleased with any of her other thoughts. Or her husband's or her SPOILER ALERT brother's. Or the end.
But I could be wrong.
Lots and lots of other people really enjoyed this, including Sherman Alexie. So... maybe Frito is redeemable and I'm just not good at reading books.


message 19: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Brilliant review! And I am now going to skip reading this one. Thank you!


message 20: by Jake (new) - rated it 1 star

Jake Nah, I'm out. I told myself I'd give it 20 more pages, and I did, and I just got annoyed twice more. Plus I'm lost in the nested flashbacks and am starting to worry I'll never make it out. So many books, so little time.


Erica Sarah wrote: "Brilliant review! And I am now going to skip reading this one. Thank you!"

Thank YOU! And also, you are welcome.

Jake wrote: "Nah, I'm out. I told myself I'd give it 20 more pages, and I did, and I just got annoyed twice more. Plus I'm lost in the nested flashbacks and am starting to worry I'll never make it out. So many books, so little time"

Well, if it helps at all, I completely support you in your decision to spend your time reading something more enjoyable.


message 22: by Dawn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dawn LOL Frito. I really enjoyed this review even though I enjoyed the book a lot more than you did. I do agree that Frito sucks at being a person and Cal is a creeper, but that didn't sour the experience for me because I tend to like selfish asshole characters.

Re: the pregnancy, I didn't think her becoming pregnant was that odd, because starving women have gotten pregnant before in our world so it's not impossible in theirs, but I did think it was idiotic of her to immediately assume she's pregnant. I would've thought my period was just screwed up because of all the stress and hard labor and poor eating. Also I totally get why they seek out other people because they believe she's pregnant. Even if you know how to keep yourself alive in the wilderness, you're not a midwife, you're not a doctor, you're not medically trained at all. If it was just me and my partner and I was pregnant out there, I'd definitely want to find anyone with any amount of medical training stat. I don't wanna die of a late miscarriage or during childbirth, and that is a much more likely outcome out there on your own.

Re: Frida's deal with shaving. Being a feminist and enjoying shaving your legs and armpits are not mutually exclusive. I'm a feminist soft femme, aka I like dresses and lipstick and other traditionally feminine accoutrements and yes, shaving. Making yourself what you believe is aesthetically pleasing for your own benefit is not anti-feminist. However, I was like WTF??? about her looking down on another homesteader for not shaving. Like why is it your business what she does with her own body, douchebag?? But, Frito is an asshole, so there's that.

Re: Cal growing up on a farm. Very good point. I was confused by that too. Like, what were you doing on that farm, dude? Playing video games while everyone else was outside?


Erica Dawn wrote: "LOL Frito. I really enjoyed this review even though I enjoyed the book a lot more than you did."

Why, thank you! I think most people enjoyed this book more than I did. I'm a crusty old bugger who hates everything, pretty much.

Dawn wrote: "Also I totally get why they seek out other people because they believe she's pregnant. Even if you know how to keep yourself alive in the wilderness, you're not a midwife, you're not a doctor, you're not medically trained at all. If it was just me and my partner and I was pregnant out there, I'd definitely want to find anyone with any amount of medical training stat. I don't wanna die of a late miscarriage or during childbirth, and that is a much more likely outcome out there on your own."

See? YES! That's exactly what I wanted. I mean, I would feel that way, too, and I would have gone through a similar thought process. That's what I missed with her. I didn't see her work it out, wonder if they could do this on their own...well, not for more than the two minutes it took her to decide she was pregnant, fall a little more in love with her turkey baster, and then think about how having a kid in the wilderness may not work and now she just wants to be around other people. Had your paragraph been in that two minutes, I would have been able to sympathize with her reasoning.

Haha, I think you're right - I'm going to have to chalk everything up to Frito just being an asshole.
You're an asshole, Frito!


Kristin "My problem began when Frida (I started calling her Frito in my mind just to make her more entertaining because I hated her)(HAAAATE)"

Yes!! I'm not even done yet and she's annoying me. And it's all your fault that I keep wanting to call her Frito lol


Anastasia I don't think Frida was actually much of a feminist, even in thought. It was always Cal who would be thinking that Frida would say something or react in a feminist way. I think Frida's only feminist comment was something about how it's only men who do security at the Land.


Andrew Can we also mention that the narrator's voice on the audiobook is this weird combination of little know-it-all third grader and grovely coed? Definitely detracts from this already terrifyingly awful story. I want to give up, but I want to keep hate-reading/listening even more.


Erica Andrew wrote: "Can we also mention that the narrator's voice on the audiobook is this weird combination of little know-it-all third grader and grovely coed? Definitely detracts from this already terrifyingly awful story. I want to give up, but I want to keep hate-reading/listening even more"

Can I just say that I absolutely LOVE that you want to hate-read/listen to this? I LOVE THAT!

This narrator is more often used to portray angsty teenage girls so while that's not too far off the mark, I was surprised she was the choice voice.


message 28: by AH (new) - rated it 1 star

AH Fantastic review. I was so bored by this book.


message 29: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I can't imagine voluntarily listening to an imitation of an angsty teenager for hours on end.


Andrew It was marginally better to curse Frito and her inanity than Houston drivers when I was stuck in traffic. But I'm so glad to be done with this—easily the worst book I've read in years.


Erica So, my friends in hatredy, I just finished Station Eleven which is also a How They Survived After The World Ended book and it made me think of this story because Station Eleven is so what California wanted to be. But wasn't. At all.
That doesn't mean you guys will like it but if you do come across it, don't let your unlove of California scare you away. They may have a similar premise but the stories are not at all the same.


Erica AH wrote: "Fantastic review. I was so bored by this book."

And I'll bet you were hoping to be wowed, right? Or at least entertained? Yeah, it was a let down.

Miriam wrote: "I can't imagine voluntarily listening to an imitation of an angsty teenager for hours on end."

Really? I think you can imagine it, you're pretty empathetic. Whatever the case, though, it's painful.

Andrew wrote: "It was marginally better to curse Frito and her inanity than Houston drivers when I was stuck in traffic. But I'm so glad to be done with this—easily the worst book I've read in years."

But you did it! I am so proud of you! And you redirected your road rage to Frito and her tragic tale so no one got run off the highway! It's like you're a saint!


message 33: by Sara (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sara I love this thread and am sending fellow haters here. It's the gift that keeps on giving. And after Lepucki said California has been compared to Parable of the Sower. Nooooooo!


message 34: by Sara (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sara I love this thread and am sending fellow haters here. It's the gift that keeps on giving. And after Lepucki said California has been compared to Parable of the Sower. Nooooooo!


Andrew Erica, I'm in the middle of Station Eleven and I couldn't agree more! It's the complete opposite of California (in terms of being engrossing).


Kristin Erica wrote: "AH wrote: "Fantastic review. I was so bored by this book."

And I'll bet you were hoping to be wowed, right? Or at least entertained? Yeah, it was a let down."


I sure was! I was so excited and then bleh you are getting me way too excited about Station Eleven, I may have to skip some and bump it up...


message 37: by Erica (last edited Jan 03, 2015 11:37PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erica Sara wrote: "I love this thread and am sending fellow haters here. It's the gift that keeps on giving. And after Lepucki said California has been compared to Parable of the Sower. Nooooooo!"

I have not read Parable of the Sower. I see I will have to, since she's making comparisons. I must see what that is all about!

Andrew wrote: "Erica, I'm in the middle of Station Eleven and I couldn't agree more! It's the complete opposite of California (in terms of being engrossing)."

We are the same! THE SAAAAAME! I'm glad it wasn't just me (and my flu-addled brain) who was disappointed by one so was completely gobsmacked by the other, thanks to comparison.

Kristin wrote: "I was so excited and then bleh you are getting me way too excited about Station Eleven, I may have to skip some and bump it up..."

Yes, Kristin, do it. DOOO IIIIIT! PEER PRESSURE!


Kasey Thank you so much for this review--and to all of you for this thread! I hate-read my way to the end of this book, and as I started writing my review, I got hate-ier and hate-ier, and the only thing that has allowed me to Let Go and Let God is the knowledge that I am in such excellent hater-ly company.

Also Happy New Year!


Valerie Great review. I think this book was pretty much about a whole world of douchebags and how they do nothing but obsess about stupid shit. The end.

And seriously, calling this book science fiction? Umm, just because it is set in a near future dystopia does not equate scifi. Those few crumbs that suggest some type of climate related calamities and some vague future food tech are not sufficient. The book felt more like YA to me, except the characters were closer to 30. Although the emotional maturity of the characters was definitely YA.


Kristin Valerie wrote: "Great review. I think this book was pretty much about a whole world of douchebags and how they do nothing but obsess about stupid shit. The end."

Nail on head.


Justin Hall Great review. makes me want to go re-write mine better or more detailed... but I probably wont :) I did not dislike it quite as much but I do see the merit in your review


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ This review and the comment thread are killing me. I like post-apocalyptic books as a rule but I'm not sure about this one. We'll see.


Kristin hehehe you can do it


Erica Yeah, I meant to remind you not to read my review, Tadiana. But doesn't karen's review make it sound enjoyable? Stick with karen's review!


message 45: by Erica (last edited Apr 03, 2015 08:47PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erica How on earth did I miss all these comments? All the way back to January? Goodreads! Why do you hate me?

Kasey wrote: "Thank you so much for this review--and to all of you for this thread! I hate-read my way to the end of this book, and as I started writing my review, I got hate-ier and hate-ier"

You are welcome so much for this review! Now that more people have read it, I feel less alone in my non-enjoyment of the story. Also, it is killing me that you hate-read it and then had a hatredy attack while reviewing! That's hilarious (and horrible, of course...but hilarious!)

Valerie wrote: "Great review. I think this book was pretty much about a whole world of douchebags and how they do nothing but obsess about stupid shit. The end.

And seriously, calling this book science fiction?"


Hahaha! I think you're pretty much exactly right. That would have been a much shorter review to write; I should have said what you said!
Yeah...science fiction. Relying heavily on the fiction

Justin wrote: "Great review. makes me want to go re-write mine better or more detailed... but I probably wont :) I did not dislike it quite as much but I do see the merit in your review"

Thank you Justin. I don't think you need to do anything else to yours. Too much time and effort. You said what needed saying and now you can move on to other books and other reviews. Because you never know when society will collapse so get your reading and reviewing in while you can!


message 46: by Trisha (new) - added it

Trisha Nagpal Hey Erica! Thoroughly enjoyed your review. Definitely made me weigh the pro's and con's of reading it.


Nenia ⭐ Literary Garbage Can ⭐ Campbell Frito!!! OMG LOL.

Love this review. karen's review made me want to read this but after reading your and Shelby's reviews I am now not so sure.


message 48: by Miriam (new)

Miriam This is how the Disaster will look in my part of California:




message 49: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa Great review! I love your list of questions! Where was the editor? I think they didn't expect this to get the attention that it did, and let a lot of things slide...


Nicole Haha! I thought the same thing about the divergent narrator.

My biggest issue (I'm only about a third of the way through) is with the visceral reaction everyone has to just seeing the color red. Like even the finger cut. Seriously? What do the women in this community do for one week outbid each month? Lay in the bed in the dark in utter panic? I though the book was written by a man or something for such a detail to be overlooked. But everyone bleeds. They are building and digging and whatever. There regularly have to be plenty of scrapes and cuts.


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