If you took a poll asking people the capital of California my guess would be that not many people would know the answer. If you continued by asking how many of them have visited the capital city of California, I think even less people would answer in the affirmative. Books and movies that take place in California play up Los Angeles, Hollywood, and San Francisco. Not many feature Sacramento, unless the action revolves around the Gold Rush. For those who haven’t guessed yet, Sacramento is the capital of California.
Given the lackluster appeal, why did David Prybil set his novel in the city? Actually it was a brilliant plan. Four misfit residents of Sacramento are at their breaking points. Junior staffer, Spencer Brine, works in the basement of the Sacramento Bee. Every day he toils away writing local obituaries that no one bothers to read. Will he perish before getting his big break? Brought up by lazy and overweight parents, Missy Carver was determined to be the best she could be. She’s a successful real estate agent who wants to become partner in her company. However, things aren’t going her way and even her matchmaker, Heidi Horowitz, has dropped her as a client since she’s impossible to please. Rowena Pickett has drifted from one dud of a boyfriend to another. And her professional life hasn’t been that amazing either. After being laid off from the Vittles Pet Food factory, Rowena takes a good look at her life. Then there’s Todd Tisdale, a former star athlete in high school. Yet he’s not in high school anymore and his life is crumbling around him. He owns a tuxedo shop in Sacramento that is lucky to have a few customers a week. Just like his characters, the city of Sacramento needs saving as well. The setting illuminates their woes.
All four characters need a boost. They need inspiration to jump start their lives and to get back on track. Enter Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie star announces that he’s running for governor during an appearance on a late night show. Will Spencer get a scoop for the Bee? Will Missy land Arnold as a client for her company and make partner? Will Todd’s store be revitalized by selling tuxes to Arnold and his crew? And Rowena’s mom is super excited to vote for the movie star turned politician. Unfortunately Rowena’s mom has Alzheimer’s and thinks she’s voting for Ronald Reagan.
Arnold stays in the background in the story. Instead, Prybil focuses on his four hapless characters as they realize that the movie star can’t solve their problems. Instead, they have to find themselves and pull themselves up. Promises from a politician, even by Arnold, turn out to be just that, promises. The novel successfully combines comedic twists with tragic consequences. How Prybil’s characters deal with their personal tragedies makes this book successful. It was easy for me as a reader to cheer on all four of them, even though on many occasions their decisions made me cringe.
David Prybil’s writing is uncomplicated. He’s not trying to impress the reader with dazzling prose. Instead his goal is to tell his story clearly and succinctly. It’s refreshing to come across an author who doesn’t bite off more than he can chew. I don’t want authors to attempt to astound me with complicated plots and big words and to forget about what matters: the story. What I desire is a story that entertains. Staying true to his skills, Prybil completed a well-written novel that is a delight to read. I give Golden State five out of five stars.