Reviews of The Golden State:
The New Yorker:
"Kiesling repudiates the classic American literary idea of the West as untrammelled wilderness or open space available for the taking, and Daphne’s relative ease of movement in the present is set against her husband’s restricted mobility across international lines. The novel beautifully depicts the golden light of California, the smell of the fescue grasses, the thinness of the air, andthe way that Daphne and Honey often feel overwhelmed by the scale of the spaces they find themselves in. The result is less an untroubled analogy between the landscapes of motherhood and the American West than an invitation to think more deeply about how limited our canonical literary imaginings of each have been." (Sarah Blackwood)
"Situating motherhood prominently within a book that is as smart, as socially engaged, and as intellectually ambitious as this one is itself a consequential act, one that many of us are apt to applaud on its face, regardless of the book’s literary merits. But if we want to make a deep and long-lasting change to the status quo—expand the cultural consensus about what is important enough to merit serious literary treatment—it’s as important that Kiesling’s account of parenting a small child succeeds on purely aesthetic grounds. Which it does." (Adelle Waldman)
The San Francisco Chronicle:
"Kiesling vividly renders the high desert town, its beauty and its starkness, its juniper-scented air and its neglect, the way it both centers and saps Daphne. Kiesling is also an astute cultural commentator, shedding light on our current political divide and university politics and Orientalism and the barbarism of America past and present while shedding light on parts of California often ignored by news and literature. She reminds us that the Golden State is more complexly storied than we often give it credit for; she also reminds us that for all its stretches of tedium and potential for heartbreak, the state of raising a young child can be pretty golden, too." (Gayle Brandeis)
"I do love commas. But commas divide meals into bites and hours into minutes, while baby care is a commaless stream of diapers jammies milk story teeth bed. While Daphne tends to Honey, she’s preoccupied by her bank account balance, Turkish grammar, the Islamophobia of the immigration system, the demographic and economic changes in the rural West that have fostered a secessionist movement, and when she can smoke her next cigarette. What Kiesling syntactically accomplishes is an exquisite look at the gulf between the narrow repetitive toil of motherhood and the sprawling intelligence of the mother that makes baby care so maddening." (Heather Abel)
San Jose Mercury News:
"The overwhelming love and loathsome, crushing boredom of mothering a young child arrive in profound, convincing and equal measure . . . The Golden State not only puts fathomless familial love on display, but also unleashes the power of fiction to provoke empathy, shame, fear, imagination, memories, despair and joy." (Lou Fancher)
The Wall Street Journal:
"The depictions are remarkably faithful, like a trompe l’oeil painting of a single parent’s mental state." (Sam Sacks)
Publisher's Weekly (starred review):
"Kiesling’s intimate, culturally perceptive debut portrays a frazzled mother and a fractious America, both verging on meltdown."
"Kiesling is a talented author...with a unique voice. She’s very smart, very funny, and wonderfully empathetic."
"Lydia Kiesling’s first novel encapsulates the intense and often conflicting feelings of early parenthood: frustration, tenderness, isolation. By playing with punctuation and sentence structure, Kiesling immerses the reader in the fragile headspace of the anxious new mother. With a style reminiscent of Claire Vaye Watkins and Sarah Stonich, The Golden State sparks the lovely, lonely feelings inside us all”
Library Journal (starred review):
"First novelist Kiesling nails the particular travails of new mothers, puts a human face on immigration issues, and adds some contemporary political commentary . . . There's so much to love about this novel . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy contemporary literary fiction and can handle a few swear words."