The Golden State Summary & Study Guide

Lydia Kiesling
This Study Guide consists of approximately 44 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Golden State.
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The Golden State Summary & Study Guide Description

The Golden State Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Kiesling, Lydia. The Golden State. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.

In Lydia Kiesling's debut novel, she follows the first person narrative of young mother and struggling professional, Daphne. Married to a loving Turkish man, Engin, Daphne lives and works in San Francisco with their 16-month-old daughter, Honey. Shortly after their baby's birth, Engin returns to Turkey to pursue his filmmaking career. A few months later on a trip back to California to visit his wife and daughter, however, officials seize Engin's green card and deport him back to Turkey. Daphne is then left alone to navigate both her career and maternal life in the city.

After two of her students, Ellery and Maryam, are involved in a taxi accident abroad, Daphne receives word of Ellery's death and Maryam's severe injuries. Because Daphne had urged the young girls to take the trip in the first place, she becomes plagued with overwhelming guilt. Unable to face her life at the university in the wake of the incident, she impulsively drives Honey up to her hometown in Altavista, located on the northernmost border of California. For ten days, Daphne wanders aimlessly around Altavista, spending most of her time between her inherited mobile home and the town's dilapidating restaurants.

Her narrative is consumed by a range of anxieties and despairs. She struggles to balance the banality of caring for her rambunctious daughter, maintaining communication with her husband, and keeping her employers and coworkers' onslaught of emails at bay. She spends much of her stay moving slowly through purposeless days, attempting to feed and entertain Honey, while perpetually longing to be alone, to drink and smoke on the porch and consider her thoughts and memories. After Honey is asleep, the narrative takes advantage of Daphne's solitude, plunging into the annals of her grandparents' and mother's lives, as well as the early days of her relationship with Engin.

Though she is constantly frustrated with the patchy nature of their cross-continental communication, Daphne always thinks fondly of Engin. During her first trip to Turkey, she met Engin at a bar. Their brief affair ended when Daphne's mother fell ill and she was forced to return to California to care for her. Five years later when Daphne was pursuing her PhD, she returned to Turkey and reconnected with Engin. Realizing how much she loved him and wanted to create a life with him, she abandoned her degree and stayed abroad. After their marriage, they returned to live in California prior to Engin's undue removal from the States.

During one of her Skype session with Engin's at the local Sal's Cafe, an elderly woman overhears her speaking in Turkish and greets her in kind. The next time she and Daphne meet, they introduce themselves. The elderly woman, Alice, has recently left her home in Michigan and traveled west on a quest to revisit Camp Cooville in Oregon, where her husband worked as a conscientious objector during the war. Over the course of several days, Daphne and Alice grow increasingly closer, sharing their stories and sorrows. After many dialogues and dinners together, Daphne finally offers to drive Alice up to the camp as she is feeling unable to accomplish the last leg of her journey on her own.

On the drive, Alice tells Daphne more and more stories about the loss of her husband and young children, her inability to overcome this sorrow, and her continued love for her late husband. When they reach the camp, Alice insists that Daphne leave her by herself for two hours. Worried and anxious given the isolated location and oncoming storm Daphne frantically sets Alice up with food, clothing, and an umbrella. She leaves the camp to find a hotel, convinced she will make it back to Alice before the storm. However, on her route back, the road is blocked by State of Jefferson fanatics who refuse to let her pass.

Significantly distraught, Daphne returns to the hotel, reports the blockade and requests an ambulance at the camp. By the time she gets back on the road the weather has worsened. When she finally reaches the camp, Alice is nowhere in sight. After rushing around the storm in search of her missing friend, she finally enters the woods with Honey, where she finds Alice lying on her side in the mud. The ambulance arrives shortly afterwards and brings her to the hospital. Alice dies not long later.

Back in the hotel, Daphne opens Alice's suitcase and finds that she has not taken her pills for several days. She has also left a note announcing her plan never to return home. Daphne grieves her lost friend. The next morning, she messages Engin and tells him she and Honey will come to him in Turkey.

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