Gold Fame Citrus is Claire Vaye Watkins’ first novel and I have to say it’s a damn solid debut. Watkins has a beautiful and tight writing style. I felt like I floated through the story as she told it. She had a way of making a barren waste land come to life through her descriptions and her depictions of the people still living there.
Watkins has an eclectic cast of characters that only a desolate setting can make shine. Luz and Ray are squatting in an abandoned mansion in Southern California, focusing on surviving. They are introduced to a toddler named Ig while at the Raindance bon fire. Even when survival is a prominent concern, maternal instinct takes over when it becomes clear Ig isn’t being taken care of properly. Luz and Ray leave Raindance with Ig but without telling Ig’s ‘people.’ Luz and Ray are worried Ig’s ‘people’ will come looking for her so they leave to look for the Amargosa dune sea. It’s rumored there is a colony run by a prophet that dowses for water. This is when the story really picks up and those characters show off their dysfunctional personalities.
I have to say my favorite part throughout this novel was when Watkins would change the style. The book is broken into three sections and Watkins throws in four different style. She surprises us in Book 2 with a play style format with the different points of view from the colony inhabitants. Towards the end of Book 2 Watkins throws in a chapter in “we” point of view from a small town living by the Yucca Mountain. Book 3 we get a newspaper article and the host of a TV show talking simultaneously on the page about the same character. Before the end we get to read the psych evaluation of one of the colony inhabitants.
Claire Vaye Watkins has a talent to be reckoned with. Not only is her writing top notch but she is innovative in her use of different styles. I look forward to what more Watkins has to offer.
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins will be published September 29, 2015 by Riverhead Books.
By Emily Coleman