California Golden: A Novel (Hardcover)
Sisters Mindy and Ginger are living in the golden age of surfing in California in the 1960s, one enjoying the glittering Hollywood view with stars like Annette Funicello and Gidget making waves, the other getting sucked into the dark counterculture of LSD and cults. After a childhood spent with their emotionally absent mother, both girls are looking for their own versions of stability and love. Their mother was a former golden surf girl, paving the way for other female surfers but sidelined from her life by children and a marriage she didn't want. Following the family through the Vietnam war and into the ’80s, this is a great read about the social upheavals going on in California in the ’60s and ’70s, a family processing its trauma, and women struggling with their expected roles in society. Highly recommended!— Aerie
Two sisters navigate the thrilling, euphoric early days of California surf culture in this dazzling saga of ambition, sacrifice, and the tangled ties between mothers and daughters from the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife.
“A shimmering rendering . . . pairs the surf culture of the Beach Boys with the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll of Daisy Jones & The Six.”—Entertainment Weekly (“Best Books of the Summer”)
Southern California, 1960s: endless sunny days surfing in Malibu, followed by glittering neon nights at Whisky a Go Go. In an era when women are expected to be housewives, Carol Donnelly breaks the mold as a legendary female surfer struggling to compete in a male-dominated sport—and her daughters, Mindy and Ginger, bear the weight of Carol’s unconventional lifestyle.
The Donnelly sisters grow up enduring their mother’s absence—physically, when she’s at the beach, and emotionally, the rare times she’s at home. To escape questions about Carol’s whereabouts—and to chase her elusive affection—they cut school to spend their days in the surf. From her first time on a board, Mindy is a natural, but Ginger, two years younger, feels out of place in the water.
As they grow up and their lives diverge, Mindy and Ginger’s relationship ebbs and flows. Mindy finds herself swept up in celebrity, complete with beachside love affairs, parties at the Playboy Club, and a USO tour in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Ginger, desperate for a community of her own, is tugged into the dangerous counterculture of drugs and cults. But through it all, their sense of duty to each other survives, as the girls are forever connected by the emotional damage they carry from their unorthodox childhood.
A gripping, emotional story set at a time when mothers were expected to be Donna Reed, not Gidget, California Golden is an unforgettable novel about three women living in a society that was shifting as tempestuously as the breaking waves.
About the Author
Melanie Benjamin is a prize-winning novelist and the New York Times bestselling author of The Children’s Blizzard, Mistress of the Ritz, The Girls in the Picture, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Aviator’s Wife, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, and Alice I Have Been. Benjamin lives in Chicago.
“Melanie Benjamin pairs the surf culture of the Beach Boys with the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll of Daisy Jones & the Six. . . . Benjamin’s novel is a portrait of three women beset by shifting cultural tides and a shimmering rendering of the promises and heartbreak of Southern California.”—Entertainment Weekly
“If you’re looking for a meticulously detailed breakdown of surf culture, look no further than Melanie Benjamin’s new novel . . . [a book] teeming with sand, sun, water, hot-pink bikinis and hamburger stands. . . . California Golden plants its feet firmly on the board and rides a powerful wave of nostalgia, eyes focused on the opportunities and dangers ahead.”—Los Angeles Times
“Benjamin vividly evokes the squalor and splendor of California surfing culture in this richly-textured novel that explores sisterhood, motherhood, ambition and friendship, with characters who rise alive from the page. It’s rare to find such raw, honest sympathy for human beings and their capacity for mistakes and redemption. California Golden is a breath of bracing salt air.”—Beatriz Williams, author of A Hundred Summers
“A gripping story about the power of family ties set in the edgy California surf culture and the glamorous and sometimes dangerous world of Hollywood celebrity, California Golden takes readers on an emotional, page-turning ride.”—Elyssa Friedland, author of The Most Likely Club
“California Golden left me breathless. Against the shimmering backdrop of California’s burgeoning surf culture, Melanie Benjamin explores the bonds of sisterhood and motherhood in an era where society, and its expectations of women, are ever changing. The Donnelly women, perfect in their imperfections, will stay with you long after the last page.”—Shelby Van Pelt, author of Remarkably Bright Creatures
“Melanie Benjamin does a superb job of showing the complicated relationships that happen in so many families. Her ability to describe the scenery of the California surf scene is unmatched. This is the perfect story for readers who want to get lost in an emotional novel about breaking barriers and being a family.”—Rachel Hanna, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Beach House
“You can practically hear The Beach Boys singing ‘California Girls’ in this novel about surfer sisters Mindy and Ginger Donnelly and their mother, Carol, a world-class athlete and terrible mom. Fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising will enjoy this story, which shares some of same locales, but the dysfunctional family at its center is one of a kind . . . This sun-soaked novel is wonderfully awash in the music, television, and fashion of the ‘60s as well as the counterculture movement.”—Kirkus Reviews
“With the charm and nostalgia of Beth Harbison’s Confessions of the Other Sister and Amy Mason Doan’s Lady Sunshine, Benjamin’s novel also shows what the sun-kissed highlight reels so often missed.”—Booklist