Julie Walker’s escape from her childhood home in Mississippi to a new life in California was a way to put her troubles behind her. Leaving her younger sister Heather, with her many issues, was a part of that process.

Now, years later, with a career as a doctor and a husband who is a radio personality, Julie has everything she wants. Except for two things: The family she lost one day because of one irresponsible night and Heather’s unforgivable mistakes, and a marriage that seems irrevocably broken.

But Heather is back in San Francisco hoping for another chance, and pregnant with her own child. And on a day that might change everything for Californians—a vote to decide if the state secedes from the U.S.—Heather is in labor, Julie and her staff have been taken hostage, and Julie ponders the steps that have brought her here to this pivotal moment.

Narrated by Julie, Golden State: A Novel focuses on the one day, but also sweeps back and forth between the past and the present, bringing us the bits and pieces that form the whole tale. And as we move closer to the final denouement, we must ask ourselves: What will happen by the end of the day…with the vote, the hostage situation, and Heather’s quest for forgiveness?

Heather was a difficult character to like. I wanted to throw things at her because of her freewheeling lifestyle—a metaphor for how outsiders perceive California?—and for her inability to tell the truth or accept the consequences of her actions.

Julie was definitely the more likeable character, but she, too, had her flaws.

A fast paced book, this one was appealing to me, a native Californian, as I moved quickly to the conclusion while invariably asking myself if something like this could actually happen? Could the state secede? And, on the other hand, can a broken family find healing? Five stars.


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