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Critical Praise

“THE GOLDEN STATE is a perfect evocation of the beautiful, strange, frightening, funny territory of new motherhood. Lydia Kiesling writes with great intelligence and candor about the surreal topography of a day with an infant, and toggles skillfully between the landscape of Daphne’s interior and the California desert, her postpartum body and the body politic. A love story for our fractured era.”


“THE GOLDEN STATE is a rare and important novel not only because it depicts with blazing accuracy the everyday experience of raising a young child but also because it uses the quotidian to reveal larger truths about humanity’s gifts and deficits. In Lydia Kiesling’s remarkable first novel, the familiar and the foreign are not so different after all, and what we remember may not be what is. A profound book.”

—Edan Lepucki, author of WOMAN NO. 17 and CALIFORNIA

“THE GOLDEN STATE is spectacularly good at rendering maternal obsession and panic, and the way the narcissism involved in the attempt to hold one’s self together can turn frenetic caring to neglect. Separated from a husband stuck abroad with a green card situation and wrung out by the relentlessness of toddler-rearing, millennial Daphne, in her traumatized withdrawal from a privileged life, registers that despite her intelligence, her life has been comprised not so much of decisions as realities that seemed to ecstatically assert themselves at the time, and that all the measures she employs to deal with stress involve harm she’ll now be passing along to her cherished child. Lydia Kiesling is brilliant on our certainty that for all we feel, we don’t do nearly enough for those we love.”

—Jim Shepard, author of THE WORLD TO COME

“How does a working mother in her late twenties who’s single-parenting her sixteen-month-old daughter have an identity crisis? By multitasking, of course. Lydia Kiesling writes a bold, keenly detailed, and distinctively female coming-of-age story about a woman who, having happily stumbled into marriage, motherhood, and a great job, must now rethink everything. Having fled her work for the family trailer in remote Paiute County, she steals moments for reflection (and rationed cigarettes) during her daughter’s naptime; she also befriends the locals, holds bandwidth-challenged Skype chats with her immigration-challenged husband, and waits for a path forward to come clear. Kiesling makes her patch of high-California desert as vivid a character as the secessionist next door. Beautifully, intricately written, true to life and to women’s experience in particular; full of insight and humor and memorable landscapes, THE GOLDEN STATE is a marvelous and captivating literary debut.”

—Michelle Huneven, author of OFF COURSE

“A big, rollicking adventure of a novel, overflowing with the kind of intense, fractal consciousness life with small children entails, the world at once collapsed and expanded infinitely, in which whole lifetimes are contained in each and every single day, Lydia Kiesling’s THE GOLDEN STATE is as funny and alive a story as they come.”

—Elisa Albert, author of AFTER BIRTH