Golden State

A Novel

Golden State

A haunting literary drama, with a ripped-from-the headlines urgency reminiscent of Defending Jacob and Sue Miller’s While I Was Gone, Golden State asks hard questions about the limits of loyalty and the bounds of family ties.

Growing up in the 1960s in one of California’s most prominent political families, Natalie Askedahl worshipped her big brother, Bobby, a sensitive math prodigy who served as her protector and confidante. But after Bobby left home at sixteen on a Princeton scholarship, something changed between them. Now that Natalie is happily married, with a career and two young daughters, her only real regret is losing Bobby.

Then, a bomb explodes in the middle of her seemingly ideal life. Her oldest daughter is on the Stanford campus when one person is killed and another maimed. Other bombings follow across California. Frightened for her family, Natalie grows obsessed with the case until she makes an unthinkable discovery: the bomber’s manifesto reads alarmingly like the last letter she has from Bobby.

Unsure of whom to sacrifice and whom to protect, Natalie is confronted with a terrible choice that will send her down a rabbit hole of confusion, lies, and betrayals. As her life splits irrevocably into before and after, she begins to learn that some of the most dangerous things in the world are the stories we tell ourselves.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476709314 | 
  • February 2015
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Golden State includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Stephanie Kegan. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Golden State is a haunting novel by Stephanie Kegan about the choices we make, the loyalties we owe our families, and how fragile the foundations of an ordinary life can be. A fifth-generation Californian and the youngest of three children, Natalie enjoys an idyllic view of her past and a happy present as a wife, mother, and teacher. Then the unthinkable happens: Natalie is thrust into overnight notoriety when her beloved but erratic older brother is accused of committing a series of heinous crimes. Natalie is forced to make decisions that pit her loyalty to brother, sister, and mother against her need to protect her husband and children. Uncertain where her choices will lead, Natalie must endure the harsh judgment of the national media as she comes to terms with her past and a future she never imagined.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

l. In the opening of the novel, Natalie thinks that there is no special day of remembrance, “no sad, sweet, shared mourn see more

About the Author

Stephanie Kegan
Photograph by Lesley Bohm

Stephanie Kegan

Stephanie Kegan is a freelance writer who has been published in Self, Los Angeles Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. A native of Southern California, she earned her BA in history from UC Berkeley and attended Journalism School at the University of Southern California. She lives in Los Angeles with her family. Golden State is her first novel.