A young European gets lost in the parties, traffic, and unbelievable characters that make up Los Angeles in this novel.
After a traumatic breakup, the confused and often drunk Mona, a native of the Netherlands, finds herself in LA. People ask where she lives, but she can only respond, “South Catalina something? You can see the Hollywood sign from the house.” Her brother, Joost, is an up-and-coming director whose recent success at Cannes has led him to turn an old Cary Grant movie into a sexy, space-set romance with blockbuster potential. Mona careens from power lunches to studios with Joost, trying to conceal the truth that she actually edits his films and maybe controls her brother’s creative force, before meeting Elki—a free-wheeling Angelino from Koreatown. Elki’s mother gave good enough pedicures that both family members ended up in the glitzy world of Bel Air as well as on the eccentric fringes of old and new Hollywood. Now Elki profits by stealing movie memorabilia and partying. While Joost struggles to deal with his producer’s bottom line and conniving manipulations, Mona watches the crowns of palm trees out car windows blur together as Elki takes her deeper into a world of parties, broken relationships, robberies, and the surprise of just how small a town LA can be. A tendency toward self-destruction, impulsiveness, and outlandish outbursts makes Mona the type of tormented enfant terrible that drives bleak coming-of-age classics like The Catcher in the Rye and Girl, Interrupted. Yet at the same time, Mona can feel flat compared to other characters—her perceptions as a Dutch citizen in a new country are never quite addressed, for example—and there are long stretches where she becomes an apathetic camera simply capturing the wild scenes of LA. Still, Moroni (Medusa Blues, 2006, etc.) clearly understands and loves that city for all of its contradictory excesses. “LA is like bubble-gum,” a character named Bama says. “You need it bad, then the buzz fades, but you’re hooked, and all your teeth fall out.” The same could be said of this book: The story never gives Mona quite enough depth, but its zany, surreal situations and whip-smart dialogue make for an addictive ride.
This tale of a troubled film editor effectively captures the dark excitement of sunny LA.