Authors: David Ebershoff
Editor’s Choice of the Year
Christian Science Monitor
Noteworthy Book of 2002
“If ever, in recent history, there has been a book that uniquely captures the shaky, easily misinterpreted relationships between men and women, brothers and sisters, parents and children, this is it.…
is unquestionably a great novel that succeeds on every level. It is important not just on its own merits, but for how reading it can and will remind serious readers that, every once in a while, there’s a fabulous book waiting to be discovered.”
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“David Ebershoff takes us back to the days when Pasadena was a genuine article—and the bestseller was, too.”
is history as personal myth and, despite its sense of fatalism and loss, it has a clear-eyed benevolence about the enduring … American faith in progress.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“[Ebershoff] keeps the pages moving with suspense.”
“A novel filled with striking characters, elegant writing and a page-turning plot …
is a quintessentially American novel.”
“Packed as fully and fragrantly with detail and incident as one of the orange crates with which the story’s Poore family has built its fortune … a shimmering portrait of Southern California.”
“A sweeping romance … [Ebershoff] keeps the drama aboil.”
“Conjuring a landscape of coastal flower farms, orange groves, and vast ranches … Ebershoff weaves extensive historical detail and period vernacular into a startling, intricate saga.”
“A big, passionate, engrossing story … Ebershoff gives [the characters] life and more—they flash and glow with a mythic sheen, ready for their close-ups.”
“A warmly written and thoroughly engaging account of the Southern California community’s transformation from groveland into bustling boomtown.”
—The Tampa Tribune
“A meticulously researched narrative that combines elements of gothic fairy tale, nineteenth-century romance, and the rise and decline of an enchanted American city,
is a traditional family saga in the very best sense.”
—Carolyn See, author of
is not merely a wondrous novel about California. It is a breathtakingly powerful novel about America. Here is an altogether mesmerizing story of a world forever transformed, as well as one of the most authentic and beautiful love stories I’ve ever read. Pure and simple, this book is a treasure.”
—Chris Bohjalian, author of
The Buffalo Soldier
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
2003 Random House Trade Paperback Edition
Copyright © 2002 by David Ebershoff
Map copyright © 2002 by David Cain
Reader’s guide copyright © 2003 by Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House Trade Paperbacks, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
This work was originally published in hardcover by Random House, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in 2002.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Pasadena : a novel / David Ebershoff.
1. Pasadena (Calif.)—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3555.B4824 P37 2002
Random House website address:
O God of heaven! the dream of horror
The frightful dream is over now;
The sickened heart, the blasting sorrow
The ghastly night, the ghastlier morrow
The dam broke
and Linda looked up and saw the bluff collapse, a waterfall of mud.
She held her breath as the sludge burst from the swamp, as it funneled down the sandstone cliff, down the scaffold of steps, swallowing her. The mudflow slapped her face and plugged her ears, sealed her eyes, stopped her mouth, shoved cold between her thighs. She was a girl of seventeen, now dragged under by the grimy hand of a broken single-arch dam. The dirty water was in her throat, the air stolen from her lungs. A torrent of silt plucked her down to the cove, where her outrigger canoe rested against a rock padded with rubbery laver. Linda tumbled as if wrestled by a wave—no air or light, up turned down, the mud’s tide carrying her. It was rocky like the oozy water-bound macadam poured to pave the roads to and from Baden-Baden-by-the-Sea, the gravel and the dust-water devouring the old wagon trails and the weedy surrey routes and the former cow paths. The earthflow rolled Linda, stones attacked her, shredding her workdress, bruising her pale flesh. Linda Stamp, a fishergirl with eight lobster pots at the bottom of the Pacific, was transported in a coffin of mud.
The January rains had swollen Siegmund’s Swamp, home of the winter runoff and the red-eyed vinegar fly. The downpour had prodded the dam, while Linda toiled below, nailing the planks into the staircase. She was not alone: Bruder was a few steps above and her mother, Valencia, was next to her, handing her wagon-box nails and brushing the hair from her eyes. There’d been five days of rain, sometimes an inch an hour, flocks of clouds soaring off the Pacific, wings of thunder, a
vulture-black sky. The rain had flooded the earthworm holes and the vole dens and uprooted a crooked digger pine.
But this morning the rain had stopped; a slit of pink sunlight pierced the sky. “Maybe we should wait another day,” Valencia had warned, but Linda wouldn’t listen. They returned to erecting the staircase, one hundred steps up the bluff’s seventy feet, from cold-sand beach to the little onion farm: Valencia, her black hair streaked with silver, her tongue clucking
Bruder, nineteen or twenty (“Orphan boy!” Linda would tease); and Linda. The three hammered step after step, crossbeams and hand-hewn two-by-fours, into the tarred-wood foundation. They worked steadily in the dry morning, anxious to complete the stairs, watching the sky swell and sag. “The worst is over,” Linda predicted. “The rain won’t return.” Her mother’s screwed-up eye disagreed. Bruder said nothing, the nails stored between his teeth, a T-head bolt behind each ear. Linda sang while they worked
—O, she was born in the Ocean, and died in the Sea!
—as Valencia and Bruder hauled the lumber with the log chain and hammered with the mallet. They worked as the ocean chewed the beach, foam spraying the steps, bull kelp spit from the mouth of the waves, hermit crabs skittering like crumbs across the table of sand. Up on the farm, Dieter shod the hinnies in the barn and sorted the white onions from sack to crate and napped on a hundred-pound bag of scratch feed.
Then the sky reopened and the rain fell again, pecking anew the farm and the sea, and the dam broke and Linda looked up and saw the downpour of mud: mudflow ferrying uprooted ice plant and mica-flecked stones and pale-yellow kangaroo rats and kitchen garbage and everything ever buried in the arroyo. Stewy mud, both liquid and solid at once, penetrated the dam and devoured her in less time than it took to say her name: