Even after several days of reflection, I don't know what I think about this book. And that really burns my brisket because I expected to unequivocally love it. I had all but papered my bathroom walls with that gorgeous cover art. Claire Vaye Watkins is one of those golden young writers who seems to be universally adored. How could I not love her debut novel, set in a futuristic, drought-blighted California? Literary dystopian fiction has been an easy sell for me ever since I made the acquaintance of Fahrenheit 451 and promptly forced all my then-students to read and discuss it.
Part of my problem is I'm not entirely sure what Watkins was trying to do with this novel. There were too many inscrutable passages where the language took a turn for the poetic and lost meaning for me. If that makes me an unsophisticated reader, well, so be it. I don't need an author to slow-walk me through the revelations they want me to have, but I'm learning that I don't have much patience for surreal descriptions of drug trips. I don't care in the slightest what colors you see behind your eyes while you're on some illicit substance. Books that rely heavily on these types of scenes just don't work for me. What can I say? I'm a huge square.
There's a love story, kind of, and if I'm being honest, that's probably what kept me engaged when the prose got too thistly for me. But that angle was oddly soapy and melodramatic next to all the deep, philosophical musings about life and death.
So why am I bothering to write about Gold Fame Citrus, when I don't write negative reviews and I obviously didn't feel all that positive about it? I guess it's because there's plenty to puzzle over, and I can't resist a book that gives me something to chew on, even if it's mostly gristle. The bone dry desert environs are vividly drawn. Main character Luz is a shifting, shimmering mirage on the sandy landscape. Just when I thought I knew her, could predict her next move, she surprised me. I wanted to know what would happen to her and Ig, the strange little girl she kind of adopted, kind of stole. I just wish I'd been able to find out without wading through all the drug-addled nonsense.