After living over thirty years in lovely southern California, I can say regretfully that I knew very little, if nothing, about the middle of this vast state that stretches nearly 9oo miles along the Pacific coast. That is, of course, until I began reading the works of Joan Didion, who was born in Sacramento, not far from the Nevada border and what I would call the middle of the state, give or take a 100 miles. 

A place barren, where rattlesnakes, and other reptiles live in abundance and the temperatures during the summer months reach as high as 120 degrees. It was settled by what one would call pioneers from states like Virginia, Ky., and Tennessess starting around the first half of the 1800’s and booming during the gold rush. 

Joan Didion’s, “Run River,” her first of many successful novels is the where is amazing, haunting novel takes place. It centers around the McClellan family, and the marriage between Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily. Both their families have lived in this area of California since it began being settled in the mid 1800’s. 

In one sense, it is a tragic story in which the environment, the barrenness of the area, is a major player in the actions of the characters. In another sense, it is a reflection on all us… A deep and unnerving look into the American psyche. This is a fascinating novel that I highly recommend.

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