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California    by Edan Lepucki order for
by Edan Lepucki
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2015 (2014)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Edan Lepucki's California portrays a dystopian future in which a young couple, Frida and Cal, flee a disintegrating Los Angeles to attempt to live off the land. What follows in Frida's afterlife begins as a slow paced homesteading story that eventually turns into something more sinister as events (including a pregnancy and tragedy affecting neighbors) force Frida and Cal to seek help from a cult-like group.

Cal had befriended Frida's precocious younger brother Micah at Plank, a college hoping that its 'graduates would solve the crises that blighted the present.' Micah later became infamous as a suicide bomber, setting of a series of similar terrorist acts by his secretive student organization, the Group, across the country. Frida knew that her brother 'had wanted to save the world and shake it up', but doesn't understand why he killed himself.

When they leave their homestead in search of other people who might help with Frida's pregnancy and childbirth, they join a community of over forty on the Land - and Frida gets the surprise of her life. The rules are strict there and affect Frida's relationship with Cal. They are disturbed to learn that this group bans children - why? What happened to all their children? Gradually, this idyllic community reveals a sinister infrastructure.

Frida and Cal move to another community, Pines, in the hope of a safe delivery for the baby and a better life. But is it really? The novel ends on this question, so perhaps there will be a sequel.

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