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Dead in Long Beach, California

A novel by

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2024 by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Today, Electric Literature, Alta, the Chicago Review of Books and The Millions

"Told by machines from the future, Blackburn’s idiosyncratic grief novel is as freshly devastating as they come." —
The New York Times Book Review

"You can try bracing yourself for the ride this story takes you on, but it's best to just surrender. Your wig is going to fall off no matter what you do." —Saeed Jones, author of How We Fight for Our Lives

A gut-busting and heartbreaking descent into one woman's fraying connection to reality, from a soon-to-be superstar.

Coral is the first person to discover her brother Jay’s dead body in the wake of his suicide. There’s no note, only a drably furnished bachelor pad in Long Beach, California, and a cell phone with a handful of numbers in it. Coral pockets the phone. And then she starts responding to texts as her dead brother.

Over the course of one week, Coral, the successful yet lonely author of a hit dystopian novel,
Wildfire, becomes increasingly untethered from reality. Blindsided by grief and operating with reckless determination, she doubles —and triples—down on posing as her brother, risking not only her own sanity but her relationship with her precocious niece, Khadijah. As Coral’s swirl of lies slowly closes in on her, the quirky and mysterious alien world of Wildfire becomes enmeshed in her own reality, in the process pushing long-buried memories, traumas, and secrets dangerously into the present.

A form-shifting and soul-crunching chronicle of grief and crisis, Venita Blackburn’s debut novel,
Dead in Long Beach, California, is a fleet-footed marvel of self-discovery and storytelling that explores the depths of humankind’s capacity for harm and healing. With the daring, often hilarious imagination that made her an acclaimed short-fiction innovator, Blackburn crafts a layered, page-turning reckoning with what it means to be alive, dead, and somewhere in between.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Dead in Long Beach, California is somehow both tender and incredibly sharp. It's mesmerizing in its ability to twist inward on itself; a genuine ouroboros of pain and loss. Venita Blackburn's writing here is profoundly gorgeous. At every turn, I found myself split between laughter and tears. An incredible look at how we work to divert the flow of grief, only to find those tributaries suddenly rejoined without our consent, the pain we wished to avoid flowing directly back to us. This book rewired my brain; it's a bonafide knockout." - Kristen Arnett

"Utterly original and bitingly funny, Dead in Long Beach, California is one of the most riveting compendiums of what makes us tick and ticked off. Hair, online dating, grief, ghosts, mental health, death, global warming, childrearing, and relative fame are only a handful of the topics that Venita Blackburn tackles with ease, revealing a mind that is truly one-of-a-kind. And this novel is a testament to the belief that, despite our world's madness and mayhem, we can and will do better. Blackburn's presence in this literary landscape isn't only refreshing, it's necessary." - Mateo Askaripour

"A prismatic, genre-defying novel where the past is layered over the present and where grief takes on a life of its own. With dazzling dark humor, Venita Blackburn captures the awful and wonderful strangeness of what it means to be alive in the twenty-first century. Dead in Long Beach, California is achingly honest, always surprising and unlike anything I've read before." - Elaine Hsieh Chou

"A spell-binding meditation on grief, loss, and familial obligation. Dead in Long Beach, California delves into the aftermath of an unexpected death to illuminate what it means to be alive." - Jonathan Escoffery

"Venita Blackburn's Dead in Long Beach, California is a remarkable novel. A profound mix of imagination, sadness, and humor that is truly unlike any other book I've ever read." - Megan Giddings

"Wry, subversive, and gorgeously inventive. In Dead in Long Beach, California, Venita Blackburn explores disorientation, deception, and the impulse toward connection in the aftermath of grief." - Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

"Riveting in its style and innovations of form, Venita Blackburn has given us a wholly original, moving, gorgeous novel in Dead in Long Beach, California. An education of the mind and heart alike. Chef's kiss, pick it up." - Sarah Thankam Mathews

"A luminous, propulsive reflection on grief and the love that underlies it." - Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

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