California’s Over leads us down an unmarked road to the coast and then deep into the rotten, labyrinthine house where James Farmican, the famous poet, shot himself to death years ago, leaving behind a legacy of adulation and bankruptcy. Now his family is leaving, and the young narrator–who calls himself Baelthon–has been hired to haul the furniture onto the lawn and sort through the attic and basement. But as Baelthon excavates, he also discovers layers of family mystery and comedy and cruelty, all of it piled too deeply for anyone to sort out: the unexplained disappearance of Farmican’s ashes, the unfinished novel that may actually be his suicide note, the opera about cannibalism that his son is writing to rescue himself from obscurity, and, finally, the family’s migration to the Nevada desert to claim their inheritance.
And Baelthon discovers Wendy, Farmican’s sixteen-year-old daughter who keeps her checkers pieces taped to the board where she and her father left them before he died. Emerging from her chrysalis of baby fat and self-loathing, Wendy is destined to be both the love of Baelthon’s life and the object of his betrayal.
Twenty-five years later, from the perspective of mid- and middle-class life, Baelthon recalls the mistaken selves he and the Farmicans once inhabited. What he doesn’t expect–or think he deserves–is the redemption and abiding against-all-odds love that await him.