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Gold Fame Citrus

Cover of Gold Fame Citrus

Gold Fame Citrus

A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Vanity Fair, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Refinery 29, Men's Journal, Ploughshares, Lit Hub, Book Riot, Los Angeles Magazine, Powells, BookPage and Kirkus Reviews
The much-anticipated first novel from a Story Prize-winning "5 Under 35" fiction writer.


In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins's story collection, Battleborn, swept nearly every award for short fiction. Now this young writer, widely heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent, returns with a first novel that harnesses the sweeping vision and deep heart that made her debut so arresting to a love story set in a devastatingly imagined near future:
Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal, phantasmagoric landscape. With the Central Valley barren, underground aquifer drained, and Sierra snowpack entirely depleted, most "Mojavs," prevented by both armed vigilantes and an indifferent bureaucracy from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon, two young Mojavs—Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the "forever war" turned surfer—squat in a starlet's abandoned mansion. Holdouts, they subsist on rationed cola and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.
The couple's fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place, and for the moment, it seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger: sinkholes and patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal, omnipresent sun. Ghosting after them are rumors of a visionary dowser—a diviner for water—and his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes.
Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins's novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own.
From the Hardcover edition.
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Vanity Fair, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Refinery 29, Men's Journal, Ploughshares, Lit Hub, Book Riot, Los Angeles Magazine, Powells, BookPage and Kirkus Reviews
The much-anticipated first novel from a Story Prize-winning "5 Under 35" fiction writer.


In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins's story collection, Battleborn, swept nearly every award for short fiction. Now this young writer, widely heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent, returns with a first novel that harnesses the sweeping vision and deep heart that made her debut so arresting to a love story set in a devastatingly imagined near future:
Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal, phantasmagoric landscape. With the Central Valley barren, underground aquifer drained, and Sierra snowpack entirely depleted, most "Mojavs," prevented by both armed vigilantes and an indifferent bureaucracy from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon, two young Mojavs—Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the "forever war" turned surfer—squat in a starlet's abandoned mansion. Holdouts, they subsist on rationed cola and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.
The couple's fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place, and for the moment, it seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger: sinkholes and patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal, omnipresent sun. Ghosting after them are rumors of a visionary dowser—a diviner for water—and his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes.
Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins's novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Punting the prairie dog into the library was a mistake. Luz Dunn knew that now, but it had been a long time since she'd seen a little live thing, and the beast had startled her. She'd woke near noon having dreamed a grand plan and intending to enact it: she would try on every dress in the house. They hung like plumage in the master closet, in every luscious color, each one unspeakably expensive—imagine the ones the starlet had taken with her! In the dream Luz had worn every dress all at once, her breasts bestudded with rhinestones and drenched in silver dust, her ass embroidered with coppery alleyways of sequins, pleated plumes of satin fanning from her hips, pale confectioners' tulle floating like spun sugar at her feet. Of course, things went one-at-a-time in the lifeless waking world.

    It was important to have a project, Ray said, no matter how frivolous. The Santa Anas winged through the canyon now, bearing their invisible crazy-making particulate, and Ray said she should try to keep her hands busy. She should try not to sleep so much. Some of Ray's projects included digging out the shitting hole and siphoning gasoline from the luxury cars abandoned throughout the canyon.

    Yesterday, Luz's project had been to present Ray with a gift of herself swaddled like a chocolate in a fur coat she'd excavated from one of the cavernous hall closets, though she was not so dark as chocolate. She'd roasted under the mink, her upper lip already jeweled over and trembling with sweat when she breached the backyard where Ray was working, into the ever-beaming, ever-heating, ever-evaporating sun. Sun of suns. Drought of droughts. These were their days now, Luz and Ray and the merciless sun up in the canyon, a family of light in this mansion cantilevered into the hillside, a bridge for a driveway. Luz had shucked the preposterous coat to the dirt and instead napped naked on a sun-stiffened chaise under the lines of a leafless grapevine until dinner. The once Ray approached her, sliding his hand between her knees, she'd groaned: too hot for sex. The mink was still heaped out back, sculpture of a failure.

    This project was better, she confirmed, twisting before the easel mirror in a peachy silk shift, lovely even against her grimy skin. In the closet was a handwoven poncho of oranges and golds, perfect for the shift, except wool was suicide. Instead, a Hermès scarf—no, a delicate tennis bracelet whose tiny clasp gave her some trouble. Like dewdrops strung around her wafer wrist, something the photographers would have said. But practically everyone was thin now. Luz stepped out of the shift and wriggled into a clinging cobalt mermaid gown dense with beads. It was gorgeous and she was gorgeous in it, even with her filthy hair and bulgy eyes and bushy brows and teeth that jutted out from her mouth as if leading the way, the front two with a gummy gap between them that caused her to seal her thin top lip to her plump bottom lip, even when she was alone, even now as she twirled and the dangly beads went click click click, softly. She looked liquid and wanted to show Ray.

    Luz tromped down the floating railless stairs in the gown and rubber galoshes and a feather headpiece, baubles winking on every finger and one wrist. At the bottom of the stairs, she froze. Across the foyer, watching her, the tawny, beady-eyed rodent. It stood on its hind legs. It sniffed the air. Its nimble claws worked at something. Kind of cute. Except it dipped its head and maybe came at her. Luz panicked, shrieked, and executed a long-stride slo-mo kick of unexpected grace and force, some long-lost AYSO girlhood reflex risen from the resin of her quads.

    They were a tired...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 13, 2015
    It's the near future: water is running out and a vast sand dune that covers whole towns is growing. Los Angeles is empty except for the hippies, survivalists, and grifters who've evaded the government-mandated evacuation. Ex-model Luz Dunn is on her way out of L.A. when she meets Ray, a soldier fresh from the "forever war." After taking in a toddler, they head for a rumored desert settlement—no simple task given the oppressive heat, gas and water shortages, and border guards. In her first novel, Watkins, a native Nevadan whose story collection Battleborn (which won multiple awards) was also set in the West, makes canny use of the region's history and myths, the way it's been shaped by dreamers (explorers, prospectors, Mormons, would-be starlets, Okies), and the limits of its water supply. Luz and Ray's story is the heart of the book, but Watkins adds an array of documents and voices depicting a West that provides nuclear-waste storage (and radioactivity) and "gold, fame, citrus"—as well as racism and government-controlled resource management. She's alive to the powerful pull of romantics, cultists, and saviors; with Levi Zabriskie—a master dowser, naturalist, conspiracy theorist, and leader of a desert community—in particular she's added a memorable character to their roster. The book is packed with persuasive detail, luminous writing, and a grasp of the history (popular, political, natural, and imagined) needed to tell a story that is original yet familiar, strange yet all too believable. Agent: Nicole Aragi, the Aragi Agency.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2015
    A tour-de-force first novel blisters with drought, myth, and originality. Watkins drew gasps of praise and international prizes for Battleborn (2013), 10 short stories that burrowed into Reno, Nevada, its history, and her own. Now she clears the high bar of public expectation with a story set in a desiccated future where "practically everyone was thin now." The callow Luz Dunn, 25, a former model from Malibu, has hooked up with nice-guy Ray Hollis, a surfer and AWOL soldier from "the forever war." A large swath of the United States has gone "moonscape with sinkage, as the winds came and as Phoenix burned and as a white-hot superdune entombed Las Vegas." In "laurelless canyon," the couple squats in the abandoned mansion of a Los Angeles starlet, dodging evacuation roundups. When Luz and Ray stumble across a strange towheaded toddler, they-gingerly-form an ersatz family. But cornered with no documentation, Ray and Luz decide to scoop up the child and hit the road, seeking a rumored desert commune. It doesn't go well. A sand dune the size of a sea begins barely beyond LA. The little girl keeps asking "What is?"-a device through which Watkins drops clues. On each page she spikes her novel with a ticking, musical intelligence: the title is a list of what drew people to California; an entire chapter hums with sentences beginning with "If she went...." The territory is more alluring and dystopian than Mad Max's. Watkins writes an unforgettable scene with a carousel; another in a dank tunnel where the couple seeks contraband blueberries. The author freckles her fiction with incantations, odd detours, hallucinations, and jokes. Praised for writing landscape, Watkins' grasp of the body is just as rousing. Into the vast desert she sets loose snakes and gurus, the Messianic pulse of end times. Critics will reference Annie Proulx's bite and Joan Didion's hypnotic West, but Watkins is magnificently original. The ghost of John Muir meets a touch of Terry Gilliam.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2015
    Watkins's debut story collection, "Battleborn", won her the 2013 Story Prize, the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, a National Book Award Best 5 Under 35 salute, and more. Her debut novel is set in a near-future Southern California so dried out that the resident "Mojavs" have mostly allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps--they're forbidden from freely seeking out greener pastures. Luz and Ray, resisters who squat in a starlet's crumbing mansion, find their love flourishing as they scrounge what they can and eventually adopt a mysterious child. But they're being tracked by a threatening cult leader and his flock. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Gold Fame Citrus
Gold Fame Citrus
A Novel
Claire Vaye Watkins
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