The gritty lives of Southern California drifters are entwined first by circumstance, then by love and revenge.
It begins with a classic LA overture—a traffic jam on the freeway, its physical, metaphysical, and sociological aspects evoked by Pochoda (Visitation Street, 2013, etc.) in shimmering detail. On this sunny morning in 2010 there’s something to break up the monotony—a man jogging stark naked against the flow of traffic. To decode this image, the rest of the book moves back and forth between 2006 and 2010, picking out the thread of each character like strands of a knot loosened and tightened. Britt is a college tennis player on the run from a terrible mistake. She stumbles upon a desert commune/organic chicken farm where a guru type named Patrick holds emotional and sexual sway over a band of tripped-out “interns,” the term itself a bit of comic relief under the circumstances. Patrick’s twin 15-year-old sons, Owen and James, have even more to rebel against than the average teenager; when Owen is humiliated by his father after a disgusting chicken slaughter, he takes off into the desert. There he runs into Sam and Blake, a violent, nasty pair of criminals whose flight from the law has been interrupted by the now-suppurating fracture of Sam’s ankle. These two end up back at the chicken ranch seeking healing from Patrick, but his talents only go so far. Also in the mix are a boy named Ren and his mother, Laila. Just released from juvie for a crime committed when he was 12, Ren crosses the country in search of his mother and finds her in failing health and miserable straits, living on the streets in LA. He has stolen a car to take her to the beach when he sees the naked jogger....
Absorbing, finely detailed, nasty California noir.