51Oet5pfz0LReviewed by Jax Kepple

Stories layered within stories, interjected with side stories and straying into brief mini tangents make up Golden State by Michelle Richmond and the result is a riveting book with a can’t-put-down ending.

Julie Walker is a doctor at a VA hospital. She is dealing with pretty much the perfect storm of losses and emotional problems: her marriage, her sister and her job are all in flux and requiring her attention, while her coworkers at the hospital are being held hostage and the state of California is voting on whether to succeed the union. Yes, it’s a lot of story, but Richmond expertly navigates these intertwining story lines in such a way that the reader will hardly notice they’ve been reading a digression about the time Julie went to a fertility doctor and then is snapped back to the tense hostage situation.

Julie is a realistic and very identifiable character, trying to escape her Southern Christian roots while maintaining a stressful job as a doctor, a marriage and separation to midnight radio DJ Tom, and the return of her immature and irresponsible sister, Heather. Heather is back after ruining Tom and Julie’s lives years ago in a very serious and life-changing way. She enlisted in the army and went on tour, and now is pregnant and not telling who the baby’s father is. She wants to repair her relationship with Julie and have her deliver the child, and Julie is apprehensive and not sure if she can let Heather in again.

The story opens with Julie trying to get across San Francisco to get to Heather before the baby is delivered, while an old friend cracks and takes hostages at the same hospital she works at. Julie laboriously makes her way on one foot after hurting her ankle, all the while thinking about how her life has turned out. Her crumbling marriage, her house, her career, her relationship with a former patient and her son and all her decisions got her to where she is now: limping across the city to try to save her sister and her coworkers. San Francisco is another character, who is going through turmoil as citizens are rioting in a juicy subplot about California, fed up with the federal government, is voting on whether or not to succeed from the United States.

My one qualm would be what the hostage-taker makes Julie do right before the end, and without giving away spoilers, I would say that the ending could have been great without it. Golden State was a fantastic story about one woman’s quest to save herself in the face of danger, both physical and emotional. I felt that it really captured the essence of being a woman in today’s world.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bantam. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.