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So L.A. Paperback – June 20, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A protagonist's soul is revealed only through the expertise of a skilled writer capable of capturing every thought, mood, and emotion. In So L.A., Bridget Hoida creates a poignant exploration of a grief-stricken artist's mind as she learns to accept the accidental rock-climbing death of her younger brother and the gradual demise of her marriage to a wealthy businessman. Overwhelmed by internal conflict and bombarded by external stresses, Magdalena de la Cruz soothes her insecurities with alcohol and sedatives, while chasing the impossible dream of achieving her own physical perfection. In a candid, first-person story broken into lyrical, journal- like entries, this flawed, beautiful heroine reinvents herself in order to become a part of the Beverly Hills elite, a social circle few are privileged to enter. The expected friendships, romantic interludes, and sexual liaisons all make an appearance in this glitzy novel of thwarted expectations and opportunities. Without traditional dialogue set in quotation marks, this literary endeavor has nothing in common with structured commercial fiction. Every character speaks with a distinctive voice embedded within the narrative. For example: Don't play dumb with me, Puck said, lowering his voice to a confidential whisper. You may have the rest of the Southland fooled with your designer water and celluloid veneer, he shot me a sexy little wink, but every once in a while your Valley surfaces. The easygoing style and tone of a diary make the story simple to absorb, especially as it is well written: "Maybe my mother was right. Maybe it was time to go home to the brown ranch I grew up in, because suddenly I wanted nothing more than to crawl under the green-gingham bedspread of my childhood and sleep." Magdalena may never come across as definitive or concise, but she is a lifelike personality in this subtle portrait of a tender woman's spirit in conflict with itself. Sheer will to live propels this traumatized individual to endure tremendous psychological pain under challenging circumstances. An award-winning scholar and writer, Bridget Hoida holds a doctorate in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California. So L.A. is her debut novel. (Starred Review: Five Stars out of Five). ----- Julia Ann Charpentier, ForeWord Clarion Review

One woman juggles the five stages of grief in this novel's cutting portrait of a marriage's slow-motion deterioration. [...] Prone to embellishment, melodrama and laugh-out-loud set pieces, Magdalena isn't an unreliable narrator, even though she admits to being inconsistent. Hoida gives her a sure and steady voice, full of caustic wit and raw emotion. With bright similes and shining epigrams, she gleefully mines Tinseltown tropes while skewering class, consumerism and body image. Revelations are punctuated with punch lines that land squarely in the gut. Although the ending is abrupt, it's as clever as the rest of the book. Best of all, it leaves hope that readers haven't seen the end of Magda. In this razor-sharp debut, grief and loathing beget a juicy tragicomedy. --Kirkus Reviews

Electric, funny, lively, edged prose illuminates the pages of So L.A. -Hoida knows how to write sentences and characters that bite right into you. --Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Bridget is a rare thing an original writer with a unique voice. Her writing is ironic, satirical, smart, sexy and deeply tender. This is a book Joan Didion will wish she'd written! --Chris Abani, author of Graceland

Bridget Hoida has crafted a remarkably fine novel. The language of this work is fresh, surprising and relentless. The novel captures California, it captures the culture, it captures this one woman's life and it captured me. This is strong stuff from a strong talent. Hoida's voice is here to stay. --Percival Everett, author of Assumption and Erasure

In So L.A., Bridget Hoida has crafted that rarest of books: intelligent, gorgeously written and, best of all, fun. The charming, witty and slightly off-kilter voice of narrator Magdalena de la Cruz brings to mind the writing of Nabokov but in a distinctly California style: Magdalena is a six-foot blonde rhinestone artist with acrylic nails and silicone breasts living in the heart of Los Angeles. She is, by turns, endearing, frustrating and heart-breaking as she tries to salvage her dissolving marriage in the wake of her brother's death. Hoida's sharp, exquisite prose awed me, and brought me to both laughter and tears. ------Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Water Ghosts

About the Author

Bridget Hoida lives and writes in an imaginary subdivision off the coast of Southern California. In a past life she was a librarian, a DJ, a high school teacher and a barista. In this life she experiments with poetry and fiction and has taught writing at UC Irvine, the University of Southern California and Saddleback College. Bridget is the recipient of an Anna Bing Arnold Fellowship and the Edward Moses prize for fiction. She was a finalist in the Joseph Henry Jackson/San Francisco Intersection for the Arts Award for a first novel and the William Faulkner Pirate's Alley first novel contest. Her short stories have appeared in the Berkeley Fiction Review, Mary, and Faultline Journal, among others, and she was a finalist in the Iowa Review Fiction Prize and the Glimmer Train New Writer's Short Story Contest. Her poetry has been recognized as an Academy of American Poets Prize finalist and she was a Future Professoriate Scholar at USC. She has a BA from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. So L.A. is her first novel. Visit her at: bridgethoida.com
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Lettered Press; First (French flaps; deckled edge) edition (June 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0985129433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0985129439
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,213,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
So L.A. exists in the thin space between exploring the culture of Los Angeles and exposing it, maybe passing off small judgments but never offering outright condemnation, at most snickering behind the fake-tanned back of the city's inhabitants. Because it's not about what L.A. is to her proudest citizens, but what it is to an outsider using its artifices to hide from herself. It's the story of grief, glitzed and glamorized.

The narrator is in the middle of grieving for and not really recovering from the loss of her brother, battling her own feelings of guilt at the expense of her business and her marriage, immersing herself in the alien, uncomfortable culture of L.A., and transforming herself (literally physically) into a version of that alienness in an attempt to distance herself from her loss.

The psychological realism of the grief is impeccable, nailing the ups and downs of the emotions, especially considering the particular form of death involved, the fall in all its incomprehensibility. The little moments of coping (or failing to cope) rang true in a fulfillingly uncomfortable way.

In the end it's a story about hiding from oneself, and that's a theme that applies beyond the personal tragedy of the novel, something we've all been familiar with since the time we first wanted a pair of cool shoes or the latest hairstyle. The novel works within itself and expands beyond itself, and ends with a sentence perfectly designed to both satisfy and leave you longing. Because what's one without the other?
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Format: Paperback
Magdalena wasn't always a Botox-injected, Juicy Couture wearing gal. No, life before her designer water empire took off involved a vineyard in Northern California, a brother whom she absolutely adored and a simpler life; complete with a "tell it like it is" mother. But when her brother Junah dies tragically, she is completely and utterly destroyed. The only way to get through it, is to transform herself into someone other than herself. Maybe then she can leave the pain behind and at least pretend for a while that she isn't some pathetic creature, pining away for a brother who will never pal around with her again.

Los Angeles is a lot of things to a lot of people but when you think of L.A., I bet you aren't thinking depth or an abundance of intellect. Right? I mean, I was raised walking the streets of Hollywood (that sounds bad) so even as a little kid, I saw the transparent, plasticky nature of the town itself. It was bad then, but it's even worse now. So, when I was asked to be a part of this tour my first reaction was a tiny cringe. Imperceptible, but there. However, I visited the author's website to read an excerpt and I was quite taken with her writing. It was different. Sharp. Blunt. Edgy. Not predictable but shiny, like something you see on the ground that you have to pick-up. So, I signed up for the tour.

I. Am. So. Glad. I. Did.

When Magdalena comes up with the idea to bottle designer water. She, along with her husband Ricky, take-off for Los Angeles to build their empire. There, Ricky's sister helps Magdalena become the person she wants to be and introduces her to designer clothing, expensive beauty treatments and saline implants.
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Format: Paperback
From the very beginning to the very end, this book had me eagerly guessing about what would happen next and I often guessed wrong, which is part of what I love about this book.

On one hand, I feel as though I have nothing in common with Magdalena, the main character of the book and the one who talks to you, the reader, directly, and holds your hand as you experience her wild, self-destructive, never-a-dull-moment journey. On the other hand, Magdalena reminds me of the part of me, and everyone, that you hope for your own sake never wins out against the rational, take-a-deep-breath-before-you-decide-what-to-do part of yourself.

The book is very entertaining and cleverly written, with so many specific references about California and life in general you have to keep reminding yourself it's fiction.

I found myself stealing time away from my kids and husband to read just a few more pages of this book. Highly recommend!
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Format: Paperback
She's tall (way tall), she's blonde, she's surgically enhanced, obscenely wealthy and moves in elite circles in Los Angeles. But here's the thing about Magdalena de la Cruz: she's the far, far, polar opposite of the stereotypical materialistic Beverly Hills blonde she insists on hiding behind. No matter how she tries to numb her vicious thoughts with gin or(sometimes hilarious) self-destructive choices, no matter how much of her face or her body she alters, whether she stands up straight or slouches there's simply no getting away from Magdalena for Magdalena. The smarts and sensitivity working beneath all that blonde hair and money make for a grand, twisting tale and we are in good hands with Bridget Hoida. The writing is effective, moving between crisp and lush, witty and--providing some of the most beautiful passages in the book--utterly captivating whenever Magdalena reminisces about her late brother Junah. Bridget Hoida knows and loves her Golden State and she does it justice in SO L.A. From the Central Valley to Malibu, she makes the landscape come alive, providing a believable, diverse backdrop for her troubled heroine. Magdalena's journey amuses, hurts, and rivets as she battles inner demons in glitzy pockets of La La Land. We fear for her personal safety, she both shocks and upsets us, and, ultimately, she's a force we root for because even at her most crazy, rhinestone-gluing, gin-swilling, capsizing self, she's genuine, her grief ringing true.
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