Title: Golden State Author: Stephanie Kegan Will be Published: February 17th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Format: ARC eBook; Hardcover, 300 pages Genre: Fiction Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this
I did not want to read the last couple of pages of this book. I did not want to witness the choices that Natalie had to make. I did not want to watch a family crumble. I wanted to live in my own make believe world of happily ever after. There is no happy when a man is on trial for being a bomber that has killed seven and maimed others. A man that has been a victim of mental illness since he was seventeen years old and a family that has chosen to look the other way until there is no other way to look.
Natalie Askedahl has always looked up to her older brother. He was her knight in shining armor who taught her all the things that brothers can bestow on their younger siblings. He was the golden child of a prominent California political family. To the Askedahl children, they had an ideal childhood – a life of privilege and parents that did not pay attention to them.
Sara, her older sister had so much to offer but decided to turn her back on it so she would not make her brother look bad. Natalie was the perfect wife and mother who never rocked the boat. Then Bobby, their genius older brother who aced his SAT’s and was accepted at Princeton. Only in the Askedahl family would this be considered a failure since they were Berkley people through and through.
The most recent terrorist bombing on the campus of Stanford University hits too close to home for Natalie as her oldest daughter was there in a debating tournament as the bomb was exploding. Natalie, at her sister’s suggestion, reads the Cal Bomber’s manifesto. Remembering the last letter that Bobby had written to their mother, something about the wording was too familiar. Could the same person have written the two documents? Her blood ran cold. Gathering up the papers, she shares them with her husband and thus begs the nightmare that has overtaken her life.
Saying that this book is like watching a train wreck is oversimplifying. It is more along the lines of watching each car plunge slowly off the tracks, rolling down a steep hill and not knowing who or what will be caught up in the destruction.
Though paralleling the actual UnaBomber case of the late 1990’s, the reader looks on from a family member’s perspective. The choices, the excuses and even the desperations are played out repeatedly as a family comes to terms with what they pretended not to see. This is a gripping and gut wrenching book. A book that leaves you emotionally battered as you live Natalie’s decisions and wonder if and how you would have done it differently.