From Publishers Weekly
Arnoldi (The Wentworths
) relies on one red-blooded character to conceal that the rest are archetypes in this ripped-from-the-headlines drama. Ellis Gardner is the surfing queen of Point Dume, Calif., feared, lusted after, and envied by the yuppie moms who filter down from the mansions overlooking the ocean to take surfing lessons. Ellis's childhood friend Pablo is the hunky surfing instructor, but he's also been amassing a small fortune finding and robbing small marijuana crops planted by Mexican cartels on the slopes of unsuspecting property owners, then selling his harvest. His current rival for Ellis's affections is one of those absentee owners, Frank, a rich midlife surfing convert who's unaware that his wife is one of Pablo's best customers. Meanwhile, Felix Duarte crosses the Mexican border for the dangerous but lucrative job of guarding one of the secret patches from which Pablo steals. Arnoldi hothouses the concerns of all equally, so Frank's existential crisis ranks as highly as Felix's hunger- and isolation-induced hallucinations up on the ridge and Ellis's unexpected pregnancy. The prose style is spare and powerful and the pages turn effortlessly. (May)
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Arnoldi revisits the themes of obsession and amorality that she so skillfully exposed in her previous works (Chemical Pink, 2001; The Wentworths, 2008), this time pitting iconic segments of Southern California’s counterculture against each other in an apocalyptic race for survival. Flinty surfer-chick Ellis’ on-again off-again affair with married vineyard owner Frank is complicated by a surprise pregnancy and her equally unsettled relationship with her childhood best friend, Pablo, now a drug dealer who supplies pot to disaffected housewives, like Frank’s wife, Janice. Stealing from the contraband pot farms operating deep in the canyons, Pablo is captured by Felix Duarte, an illegal immigrant smuggled into the country by the Mexican drug cartel to manage their operation located on the periphery of Frank’s estate. When the Santa Ana winds pick up and a single spark erupts into a conflagration, Mother Nature regains control of the land everyone, save Ellis, has been wantonly abusing. Crisp pacing, caustic characterizations, and acerbic satire inform this darkly comic fable. --Carol Haggas