Golden State

A Novel

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The state of California votes on secession in the wake of a divisive presidential election in this gripping, prescient novel of marriage, family, and the profound moments that shape our lives.

Doctor Julie Walker has just signed her divorce papers when she receives news that her younger sister, Heather, has gone into labor. Though theirs is a strained relationship, Julie sets out for the hospital to be at her sister’s side—no easy task since the streets of San Francisco are filled with tension and strife. Today is also the day that Julie will find herself at the epicenter of a violent standoff in which she is forced to examine both the promising and the painful parts of her past—her Southern childhood; her romance with her husband, Tom; her estrangement from Heather; and the shattering incident that led to her greatest heartbreak.

Infused with emotional depth and poignancy, Golden State takes readers on a journey over the course of a single, unforgettable day—through an extraordinary landscape of love, loss, and hope.

Praise for Golden State

“A stirring look at the ties that bind husband-wife, mother-child and even sisters, and what happens when they’re torn asunder. Set in a San Francisco chafing with unrest both political and personal, the world Richmond creates is exquisitely charged with regret and hope.”Family Circle

“[A] riveting read that can be recommended to fans of Jodi Picoult and Jacquelyn Mitchard . . . Mesmerizing and intricate, Richmond’s dissection of a California on the violent brink of secession from the nation provides the backdrop to her deeper inspection of the uneasy, fragile relationship between siblings.”Booklist (starred review)

“[An] amazing, turbulent novel woven of disparate threads . . . Nearly every feature of this mesmerizing novel is provocative, as Richmond explores the fragmented, hopeful lives of complex characters. This is gripping, multilayered must-read fiction.”Library Journal (starred review)

“An exciting premise . . . skillfully written . . . Julie’s past and her relationship with the other characters are scrutinized as the clock ticks. It’s an interesting and sometimes-disturbing study.”Kirkus Reviews
“Richmond takes readers through a bittersweet, heartwarming tale of a woman on the cusp of life-changing events in both her personal and professional lives. . . . Once invested, the reader is carried away by this action-packed, poignant story, making this a tale that will live in the heart of the reader once the last page is read.”RT Book Reviews
“This is a thoughtful book about how past circumstances change us into the people we are today, for the good or bad. Julie is a sympathetic and relatable character, and readers will definitely feel for her as she goes through her life-changing day.”The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
“Richmond . . . delivers a page-turner.”San Jose Mercury News

“A breathtaking read and one I’ll not soon forget.”—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Aviator’s Wife

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Golden State




12:41 p.m., June 15

The reception area of the tiny hotel is eerily empty. On the desk, a coffee mug smeared with red lipstick sits beside a small televi- sion, the volume turned up high, blaring news of the vote. Eleanor’s mug, Eleanor’s lipstick. Famously difficult Eleanor.

I leave my crutches behind and use the rail to pull myself up the stairs. At the top, I turn left. The first room is empty, the door open to reveal two twin beds, an old dresser, blood on the floor.

I continue along the hallway. The second door is closed. Room 2B. Heather’s room. Early this morning, while I was still sleeping on the couch of a radio station at the other end of the city, my phone began to vibrate. It was Heather, texting: It’s time. It seems like a life- time ago.


I try the knob, but it doesn’t budge.


I knock. Again, no answer.

Finally, a scraping sound, furniture moving across the floor. The knob turns, the door opens a few inches, and there she is—red in the face, her T-shirt drenched with sweat, her eyes strangely calm. Her gaze takes in my wrecked face, my filthy clothes, the hastily wrapped bandage on my foot.

I squeeze through the doorway. On the opposite wall, a bureau is shoved against a tall window that opens onto a balcony. To my left, as far as possible from the window, stands the bed, the sheets twisted and wet.

“When I saw him coming toward the hotel,” she tells me, “I barricaded the door. When he left, I barricaded the window.”

She shuts the door behind me, then locks it. Together we shove the desk back into place.

“What happened next door?”

“He had Eleanor,” she says. “Sounded bad.”

Heather doubles over in pain, moaning. I limp to her side. She grips my arm so tight I can feel her fingernails through my sweater. Seconds pass before her face relaxes. She catches her breath, lowers herself onto the bed. “What’s the difference between a pregnant woman and a lightbulb?” she asks.

“Got me.”

“You can unscrew a lightbulb.”

I smile, happy to see the Heather I know.

In the bathroom, I wash my face and hands. I smell terrible and look worse. The skin under my arms is bleeding, rubbed raw from the crutches. Rummaging through Heather’s cosmetics bag, I am grateful for the small miracle of a rubber band. I gather my hair into a ponytail, drink cold water from the faucet, and rinse my mouth with toothpaste.

I scan the bathroom for anything useful. There’s a small bar of soap, two towels hanging beside the stained tub, an empty waste bin beneath the sink. I grab the towels and bin and hobble into the darkened room. I drag a chair up to the end of the bed and drape a blanket over Heather’s knees.

“Are there any cops out there?” she asks.

“Just one terrified kid.”

She clutches the sheets as another contraction seizes her. Her face registers the pain, but she is silent. Thirty seconds pass before she collapses back onto the pillow, panting.

“Where’s the National Guard?” she asks.

“Sacramento and L.A., I guess.”

A foghorn wails in the distance—that familiar, soothing sound. “Scoot down,” I say. “Here comes the fun part.”

“When I said I didn’t need the bells and whistles, I didn’t quite picture it like this.” She moves toward the end of the bed.

“The baby’s going to be fine,” I say, mustering my calmest voice.

I lift the blanket to examine her. I’m not an ob-gyn, I’m a general internist. This is not what I do. Of course, I did it during my residency years—a month on the maternity ward at San Francisco General—but I was relieved beyond measure when my time was over.

Just to the west of us, beyond the barricaded window and the empty parking lot, is the Veterans Administration hospital. The six-unit hotel is normally booked with veterans’ families, waiting out heart surgery and organ transplants, but today the place is deserted. All but the most crucial surgeries have been postponed, and the whole campus is running on a bare-bones staff.

Both of us are startled by the footsteps on the stairs. Our eyes lock.

A knock on the door. I open my mouth to answer, but Heather brings a finger to her lips.

The knock again, more insistent this time.

“Dr. Walker?” I recognize the voice—Greg Watts from security. Relief washes over me. I shove the desk away from the door just enough to let him in. At sixty going on forty-five, Greg has the slim, athletic build of a runner. He looks me over quickly, grimacing.

“You okay, Dr. Walker?”


He glances at Heather. “What about her?”

“We’re managing. It would be great if we could get a nurse and supplies.”

“Nobody wants to cross that parking lot,” he says. “Not after Eleanor. Not after he shot at you.”

“You crossed the parking lot.”

Greg holds up a cellphone. The blue Mute light is flashing. “Special delivery. He wasn’t going to shoot his own messenger.”

I look at the phone, uncomprehending. “What?”

“He wants to talk to you.”


“He says if he can’t talk to you, someone’s going to get hurt.”

“Where is he now?”

“He broke into your office.”

I take a shaky breath. My office. I think of the photos on the desk, the art on the walls, the radios from Tom, the sand dollar from an afternoon on the beach with Ethan. If he wanted to get inside my head, he’s done it.

“Anyone else?”

“Betty Chen.”

Betty’s worked ICU for twenty-six years. A nice woman, a gifted nurse, very calm, four kids and eleven grandkids spread out all over the country. Every year, she and her husband travel by RV to Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, and Montana to see all of them.

“Better staff than patients.”

Greg shakes his head. There’s something he doesn’t want to tell me. “He’s got Rajiv.”

My heart sinks. Twenty-seven years old, in his final year of residency, Rajiv is my chief resident and my favorite student. In a couple of months, he’s getting married. I’ve been looking forward to the wedding.

I press the Mute button and take a deep breath.


“So,” a familiar voice says, “I finally got your attention.”

- About the author -

Michelle Richmond is the bestselling author of The Year of Fog, No One You Know, Dream of the Blue Room, Golden State, and the award-winning The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress. A native of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, she makes her home in Northern California.

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Golden State

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Golden State

— Published by Bantam —