City of Orange by David Yoon
Publication Date: May 24, 2022
Summary from NetGalley:
A man wakes up in an unknown landscape, injured and alone.
He used to live in a place called California, but how did he wind up here with a head wound and a bottle of pills in his pocket?
He navigates his surroundings, one rough shape at a time. Here lies a pipe, there a reed that could be carved into a weapon, beyond a city he once lived in.
He could swear his daughter’s name began with a J, but what was it, exactly?
Then he encounters an old man, a crow, and a boy—and realizes that nothing is what he thought it was, neither the present nor the past.
He can’t even recall the features of his own face, and wonders: who am I?
Harrowing and haunting but also humorous in the face of the unfathomable, David Yoon’s City of Orange is a novel about reassembling the things that make us who we are, and finding the way home again.
ARC provided by Penguin Group via NetGalley for an honest review.
Although this ended up not being the story I was expecting, I did fall in love with it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is not a fast moving book with lots of action but it is a book about loss and grief and finding your way back from total devastation.
The man, who remains nameless throughout most of the book due to amnesia, does struggle to survive in the wasteland he finds himself in. His memories do slowly come back to him, but he is plagued throughout most of the book with trying to remember simple things like his wife and daughter’s names and what happened to them. As the story unfolds you find yourself grieving right along with him and urging him to find himself and find his way home.
There are very few other characters in the book, an old man who visits with the man briefly and a young boy who befriends the man and helps him to recover. There is also the best friend and the wife, who he has conversations in his head with. Most of the story takes place in the man’s head as well as in the wasteland he finds himself in.
The writing is amazing, as I have come to expect from this author. It is rather bleak and simple though, and there are sections that are hard to read due to formatting. Many of the conversations take place in the man’s head and don’t have the usual punctuation because of this, which made it hard to follow sometimes. But it works in a strange way. The descriptions of the world he finds himself in are really vivid and you can imagine them quite well, especially if you have ever been in California.
This is not a dystopian science fiction story, which you can be lead to believe by the summary. But it is a beautiful and sad story about finding your way through grief after a devastating tragedy. This is well worth the read.