Dead in Long Beach, California
by Venita Blackburn
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Pub Date 23 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 29 Feb 2024
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2024 by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Today, Electric Literature, Alta, the Chicago Review of Books and The Millions
"Told by machines from the future, Blackburn’s idiosyncratic grief novel is as freshly devastating as they come." —The New York Times Book Review
"You can try bracing yourself for the ride this story takes you on, but it's best to just surrender. Your wig is going to fall off no matter what you do." —Saeed Jones, author of How We Fight for Our Lives
A gut-busting and heartbreaking descent into one woman's fraying connection to reality, from a soon-to-be superstar.
Coral is the first person to discover her brother Jay’s dead body in the wake of his suicide. There’s no note, only a drably furnished bachelor pad in Long Beach, California, and a cell phone with a handful of numbers in it. Coral pockets the phone. And then she starts responding to texts as her dead brother.
Over the course of one week, Coral, the successful yet lonely author of a hit dystopian novel, Wildfire, becomes increasingly untethered from reality. Blindsided by grief and operating with reckless determination, she doubles —and triples—down on posing as her brother, risking not only her own sanity but her relationship with her precocious niece, Khadijah. As Coral’s swirl of lies slowly closes in on her, the quirky and mysterious alien world of Wildfire becomes enmeshed in her own reality, in the process pushing long-buried memories, traumas, and secrets dangerously into the present.
A form-shifting and soul-crunching chronicle of grief and crisis, Venita Blackburn’s debut novel, Dead in Long Beach, California, is a fleet-footed marvel of self-discovery and storytelling that explores the depths of humankind’s capacity for harm and healing. With the daring, often hilarious imagination that made her an acclaimed short-fiction innovator, Blackburn crafts a layered, page-turning reckoning with what it means to be alive, dead, and somewhere in between.
A Note From the Publisher
★ “Despite the heavy subject matter, sensitively handled, this is frequently a deeply funny novel . . . Blackburn shares a deep intellect and odd sensibility with authors like George Saunders and Rion Amilcar Scott, but this novel is its own thing: intelligent, bizarre, and brilliantly written. An astonishing debut novel from a remarkably creative writer.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"I've been waiting for a novel like the one Venita Blackburn has just unleashed on us. Grief as a science-fiction itself, grief as a fount of absurdity and mad laughter, grief as a time travel machine locked inside a person's body. You can try bracing yourself for the ride this story takes you on, but it's best to just surrender. Your wig is going to fall off no matter what you do." —Saeed Jones, author of How We Fight for Our Lives
"Dead in Long Beach, California is somehow both tender and incredibly sharp. It's mesmerizing in its ability to twist inward on itself; a genuine ouroboros of pain and loss. Venita Blackburn's writing here is profoundly gorgeous. At every turn, I found myself split between laughter and tears. An incredible look at how we work to divert the flow of grief, only to find those tributaries suddenly rejoined without our consent, the pain we wished to avoid flowing directly back to us. This book rewired my brain; it's a bonafide knockout." —Kristen Arnett, author of With Teeth
“Wry, subversive, and gorgeously inventive. In Dead in Long Beach, California, Venita Blackburn explores disorientation, deception, and the impulse toward connection in the aftermath of grief.” —Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, author of My Monticello
"Utterly original and bitingly funny, Dead in Long Beach, California is one of the most riveting compendiums of what makes us tick and ticked off. Hair, online dating, grief, ghosts, mental health, death, global warming, childrearing, and relative fame are only a handful of the topics that Venita Blackburn tackles with ease, revealing a mind that is truly one-of-a-kind. And this novel is a testament to the belief that, despite our world's madness and mayhem, we can and will do better. Blackburn's presence in this literary landscape isn't only refreshing, it's necessary." —Mateo Askaripour, author of Black Buck
"A spell-binding meditation on grief, loss, and familial obligation. Dead in Long Beach, California delves into the aftermath of an unexpected death to illuminate what it means to be alive." —Jonathan Escoffery, author of If I Survive You
"Riveting in its style and innovations of form, Venita Blackburn has given us a wholly original, moving, gorgeous novel in Dead in Long Beach, California. An education of the mind and heart alike. Chef’s kiss, pick it up." —Sarah Thankam Matthews, author of All This Could Be Different
"A luminous, propulsive reflection on grief and the love that underlies it." —Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of On the Rooftop
"Venita Blackburn's Dead in Long Beach, California is a remarkable novel. A profound mix of imagination, sadness, and humor that is truly unlike any other book I've ever read." —Megan Giddings, author of The Women Could Fly
"A prismatic, genre-defying novel where the past is layered over the present and where grief takes on a life of its own. With dazzling dark humor, Venita Blackburn captures the awful and wonderful strangeness of what it means to be alive in the twenty-first century. Dead in Long Beach, California is achingly honest, always surprising and unlike anything I’ve read before." —Elaine Hsieh Chou, author of Disorientation
Available on NetGalley
Venita Blackburn has done it again! I almost struggle with talking about this book because I almost don't know how to start... a woman discovers the corpse of her brother, then loosely pretends to be him for a few days? The novel tackles grief and celebrity, but I think the form it adopts is actually the most interesting aspect to it. And with Blackburn, who so clearly has control of the material, I felt taken care of in her hands. This is a bonkers good novel.
Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!