Claire Vaye Watkins – Gold Fame Citrus

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Gold Fame Citrus is set in a not too far away future were water has nearly ran out, America is being swallowed by a huge sand dune sea and life has become pretty much hopeless. Ray and Luz, a couple that is squatting in a starlet’s mansion with a dried out pool are trying their best to survive in an almost deserted California. When they self-righteously kidnap a weird little child from a very shady group of people, they find themselves on the run though. They are running away from the gangs that control the city, from the labour camps the remains of the government would force them into and they also run from a life with no future. They head for the desert, looking for a secret cult, but the reality of traveling through the heat, hits them harder then they had thought:

“Her Skin was screaming. Her lips split, clefts puttied with scabs. The flesh around her nose was raw to crackling, like the plates along the bottom of a dry ancient sea, no moisture left to yield.”

Ironically, once they find the secret cult, they are possibly in even more danger.

The book opens with a brilliant dystopian setting, drawing the reader into the sun-crazed world of prophecies and destruction. But I must admit that I found it difficult to stay emotionally involved with the characters all the way to the end. None of them are really likeable and some of them stay pretty two-dimensional. In the end I just didn’t care what happened to them. The language was beautiful at times but overall a bit too embellished. To me it was the opposite of light and effortless with too many pretty words and not enough character development. The novel has some interesting ideas, mainly the setting but didn’t deliver all that it promised in the beginning. It felt very much like a first novel.

After finishing the book I read an interesting fact about Watkins. She is the daughter of Paul Watkins, who was a member of the Manson family. This fact definitely made me see the novel in a new light. Parallels like drug use, orgies, insane leaders and conspiracy theories could definitely be drawn between the Manson family and the sand dune sea cult. All of a sudden the dystopian vision of a post apocalyptic America seemed more like a backdrop, something to disguise the fact the story was actually inspired by a cult in the sixties. And even though this added a new layer the whole story and the way it could be read, for me, that still wasn’t enough.

If you want to read more about the Manson family connection, here is an article by Watkins about her relationship with her father.

For an overview over everything related to Manson family there is a great series by the You must remember this podcast called Charles Manson’s Hollywood.

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