I’ve been a serial obsessive for most of my life, and many of the things I’ve obsessed over–eating shrimp two meals a day, wearing green sweat pants, and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, to name but three–I’ve managed to, more or less, move past. But music and California are two obsessions that will always dominate my imagination. And in Driftwood, the debut novel by Elizabeth Dutton, I can indulge in both of those long-standing obsessions.
Here’s the basic set-up: Clem Jasper (great f-ing name!) is an L.A. trust fund kid with a well-known rock musician for a father who dies suddenly while playing ping-pong. Still reeling from the loss and trying to figure out her place in the world, Clem receives a rather strange inheritance: a bundle of letters from her father instructing her to visit several meaningful yet mysterious destinations around California.
Clem’s a quirky and relentlessly self-commenting narrator, but an oddly likeable one. She is one part misanthrope and one part romantic. As a reader, I sympathized with her, gobbled up her irreverent remarks and witticisms and spot-on commentary about, well, everything. In short, Clem is that often-talked-about-but-rarely-realized round character.
The other brilliant aspect of this book is the setting: California. In Dutton’s hands, California comes alive, becomes something more real, more interesting, more quirky than the glittering yet static version of California that’s lived in my imagination for so long. I particularly enjoyed the oddball characters Clem meets in the towns she visits; I relished the descriptions of the landscape, the weather, the vibe of each new place she goes in search of gaining a deeper connection with her father. And, of course, there is the music. Yes, many songs and bands (both real and fictional) are mentioned, discussed, and evaluated, but what struck me the most was the (forgive me) music of the road. Throughout Clem’s journey, she is attempting to find a rhythm for her life, to write her own song, one that redefines who she is and what family means.
Bottom line, I highly recommend this book. It will be widely released on November 4, but is available for pre-order now. Click on the link below.