cover image Lola, California

Lola, California

Edie Meidav. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-0-374-10926-4

Meidav's third novel is a self-indulgent meditation on the grand themes of motherhood, redemption, identity, and choice. It's the 1980s, and Rose is the moth to Lana's flame. The two adventurous friends come-of-age in the shadow of Lana's father, Vic Mahler, a professor who can't open his philosophical mouth without sending life-changing shivers down the spines of followers. Meanwhile, Lana's enigmatic mother, another professor, disappoints Lana by allowing her and her friend to grow apart. Yanking the reader back and forth in time, up and down the California coast, and into a prison, an insane asylum, and a nudist spa, the author propels her narrative by withholding crucial information, such as (but not limited to) what Mahler did to end up on death row. Like Meidav's previous novels (the award-winning The Far Field and Crawl Space), this too is peopled with the hapless and unhappy, its pages overwrought with insanity, infidelity, kidnappings, and death. It's both dreadful and awesome, brilliant at the sentence level and thought-provoking in its depiction of a dysfunctional family—indeed a dysfunctional American state—but also frustrating. (July)