Review of “Golden State” by Kegan

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This is my review of the hardcover book “Golden State” by Stephanie Kegan.

Review of Stephanie Kegan's Golden State

Golden State by Stephanie Kegan, as reviewed by Ginger Wroot


  • Hardcover:304 pages
  • Publisher:Simon & Schuster (February 17, 2015)
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches

I had high hopes when I finally got a copy of “Golden State” by Stephanie Kegan.  This was touted as a literary novel on Amazon, with “ripped-from-the-headlines” urgency, akin to “Defending Jacob” by William Landay.  Don’t believe it, though.

I really struggled to like “Golden State”, and from beginning to end, found it not even close to the suspense and intensity of “Defending Jacob”.  The story is mainly how the narrator Natalie and her sister, mother, husband and children deal with Natalie’s mentally ill brother Bobby being arrested and tried for allegedly committing several politically-motivated bombings at colleges in the Golden State of California.  Natalie, seemingly by means beyond her control, is responsible for turning her brother in, the very brother whom she so admired when she was a child.

Despite the compelling subject, this is not a highly suspenseful book, nor is it particularly dramatic.  I was constantly irritated by Natalie, to the point that I felt that the author was wasting my time, just as Natalie’s brother’s demise seemed to be wasting Natalie’s time and energy.  I was put off by Natalie’s foolishness, impulsiveness, and her naivety, much as her husband seemed to be, and, really, should have been.  With little to propel the plot or the narrator forward, I found that Natalie never seemed to find an answer, and was always confused and lost.  If you like depressing and slow-paced, then perhaps this book will suit you.  Yes, there were snippets that were elegantly written, but after a while, Natalie as narrator, caught on a treadmill of her own thoughts, begins to sound repeatedly childish and petty in her sentimentality for the past. And I did not care for or care about the accused Bobby like Natalie, her sister Susan, and their mother did—that’s the thing…I didn’t care what happened to Bobby, nor did I wish and hope the best for Natalie.  Twisted as it sounds, perhaps because Natalie acted so stupidly at times, I almost hoped for something tragic to happen to her. “Golden State” might have been better if it had been heavily edited, since it seemed so darn repetitive; a novella, or even a short story format, might have been perfect.  “Golden State” also lacked a good proofreader—I’m sure that I came across at least a dozen typos—that’s just sloppy, in my opinion.

Does the fact that I feel so strongly negative about this novel mean that the author Stephanie Keagan did her job, and that “Golden State” really is good literature?   Should we have to choose between an entertaining novel and a tedious book about a family’s faltering relationships because of their connection, or lack of connection, to an accused bomber who is mentally ill?  I think good literature can be entertaining and suspenseful, but if “Golden State” is literary, it certainly was not entertaining for me.

My recommendation is to read “Defending Jacob” instead, and don’t waste your time, or a book club’s time, with “Golden State”.  Two stars from me.

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