Edan Lepucki has written a first novel that may have gotten buried – as many do – not because it’s not very good (it is), but because Amazon decided to bury along with other titles from the Hachette publishing group it is currently feuding with. This caught Stephen Colbert’s attention and so he gave Lepucki’s “California,” the “Colbert bump.” And, we must say, good call Stephen: “California” is very much a Cormac McCarthy-esque “The Road”-style outing, where a lone survivor (well, in this case a married couple , Cal and Frida) are semi-stranded and isolated in a dense forest after some cataclysmic event that decimates America and our way of doing business. Unlike the usual apocalyptic novel, the crap world these people are left with seems to be the result of radical climate change, which of course may well do us in before the nukes can a chance to fly.
Lepucki, who began this book at the notable Iowa Writers Workshop, drops in on Frida and Cal, who get on quite well in their semi-squalor, despite being each other’s only solace. If they get on each others’ nerves, and they do, I mean you kind of have to have good coping mechanisms, because they are literally all each other has got. Except for a trader named August who comes by now and again to offer goods which they have use for but no idea how he came about them. Quizzical, they do a bit of exploring and meet a family named the Millers (wife, husband, daughter, son) who they strike up some sort of relationship, just short of a friendship. But the husband tips off Cal that there’s something else out there, a settlement of sorts. But not a welcoming settlement. A closed group that doesn’t want any new blood. Not a kid-friendly place either. We also learn that Micah, the leader of this settlement, might have a connection to Frida and Cal from way back. This fellow, shall we say without giving to much away, has played an important role in their lives – and in the mindset that now exists in the world at large. We gradually learn, not specifically, about other groups, some quite upscale that have managed to rebuild their lives in a not that inconvenient way, despite the raging despair and poverty all around them. Yep, simmering class warfare. If you’re thinking a variation on “Road Warrior” and “Max Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” well, I did, too. A little less bloody – perhaps.
But that’s about all we’ll reveal. OK, we will tell you there are some menacing, maze-like constructions called the Spikes that guard the place where this group lives. We will tell you it would be a great idea to hear Lepucki speak Wednesday July 23 at the Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner.
Also on the bill: Joanna Rakoff who wrote “My Salinger Year,” more words about that literary mystery man of yore, a recluse who might have felt comfortable in “California.”
Starts at 7. Free.
279 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-566-6660 www.brooklinebooksmith.com