The 2014 novel that imagines Calexit

in the wake of a divisive presidential election

There’s no denying the suspenseful thrill.Washington Times

“Mesmerizing and intricate, Richmond’s dissection of California on the violent brink of secession from the nation provides the backdrop for her deeper inspection of the fragile relationship between siblings…riveting” Booklist, starred review

“Gripping, multi-layered, must-read fiction.” Library Journal, starred review


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Golden State



Doctor Julie Walker has just signed her divorce papers when she receives news that her younger sister, Heather, has gone into labor. Though theirs is a strained relationship, Julie sets out for the hospital to be at her sister’s side—no easy task since the streets of San Francisco are filled with commotion. Today is the day that Californians are voting on whether or not to secede from the United States. It is also the day that Julie will find herself at the epicenter of a violent standoff with a former lover who has become obsessed with her.

Throughout the ordeal, Julie’s estranged husband, desperate for reconciliation, sends out coded messages from the radio station where he is the well-known Voice of Midnight.

GOLDEN STATE takes readers on a journey over the course of a single, unforgettable day. Five years in the making, GOLDEN STATE is both a literary thriller and a meditation on marriage, love, and loyalty. Like The Year of Fog, it is a page-turner with a philosophical bent.



In 2014, I published a novel I’d been working on since 2008–a novel that takes place on the day Californians are voting on whether or not to secede from the United States of America. In the novel, the secession movement, long considered the impossible dream of a crazy fringe faction, has been mainstreamed after the controversial new president promises to build a border wall with Mexico, bomb Iran, and roll back environmental protections.

A Silicon Valley venture capitalist funds the effort to get secession on the ballot. No one really takes it seriously, except perhaps the young hipsters who stand on street corners, urging people to sign. And a lot of people do sign the petition to put a vote to the ballot, in part because they think it makes sense, and in part because they figure it could never really happen.

But then, the unthinkable happens: the secession movement gets its vote. When I started writing the book, I was inspired in part by the fringe secessionist movements in California and elsewhere. Some A few vocal Californians were calling for a Bear State moment, for the California Republic to go its own way. Their dream of an independent California was fueled by ideological differences with much of America, combined with California’s economic promise (it was then and remains today the sixth largest economy in the world).

The novel follows Dr. Julie Walker–a general internist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco–as she tries to cross the city to get to her sister on the day of the vote. The city is in chaos. Agitators have come from outside the state to protest. There is violence in the streets, but there is also joyfulness. The buses have been shut down, the streets are clogged with protestors. Dr. Walker is torn about the secession. She loves her country, she loves her state, and her own situation is complicated by the fact that she works for the federal government. What would happen to the VA, she wonders, to her job, to the people she works with and the patients she cares for, if California were to secede? And what would happen to California’s miles of rugged coastline that are part of the National Parks system. And to Golden Gate Park? Would these lands be retained by the United States, islands under federal control within California?

At the time, they were intriguing questions. They’re more intriguing today.

Golden State Audio BookListen to a sample of the audiobook, winner of the Earphones Award from Audiofile Magazine.

Narrator Kathe Mazur makes Dr. Julie Walker a sympathetic character whose familial, professional, and romantic relationships are too intense to switch off.” Audiofile Magazine


“[An] amazing, turbulent novel woven of disparate threads… Nearly every feature of this mesmerizing novel is provocative, as Richmond explores the fragmented, hopeful lives of complex characters. This is gripping, multilayered must-read fiction.” Andrea Tarr for Library Journal, starred review

“Mesmerizing and intricate, Richmond’s dissection of California on the violent brink of secession from the nation provides the backdrop for her deeper inspection of the fragile relationship between siblings…Seemingly random situations are tied together during a single day with breathtaking grace by Richmond in an understated yet riveting read…” Julie Trevelyan forBooklist, starred review

“An interesting and sometimes-disturbing story exploring how a person’s anticipated path can change and examining the choices people must make in order to move forward. Skillfully written.” Kirkus Reviews (read the review)

“Richmond delivers a page-turner…” San Jose Mercury

“Golden State‘s fast-moving plot combines political turmoil, a birth, a hostage situation, and a woman’s struggle to find inner strength after divorce…a perfect summer page-turner! ” Coastal Living Magazine May Book Club pick

“An exquisitely wrought piece of storytelling that is sure to linger in the mind long after the last page is read…in the hands of talented author Michelle Richmond, we very soon find ourselves completely invested and onboard…A many-layered page-turner that is emotionally resonant and satisfying, enriched by a playlist of songs composing a mental soundtrack that music lovers will embrace.” Bookreporter (read the review)

Golden State is a Target Emerging Authors selection and a Booksamillion Book Club pick.

Add Golden State on Library Thing     Add Golden State on Goodreads

“A stirring look at the ties that bind husband-wife, mother-child and even sisters, and what happens when they’re torn asunder. Set in a San Francisco chafing with unrest both political and personal, the world Richmond creates is exquisitely charged with regret and hope.” –Family Circle

“This is the kind of book you want to read slowly–savoring the deeply believable characters, the beautifully described San Francisco setting, the strangeness (and rightness) of its all taking place on the day California may vote to secede from the nation–but instead you read it in a mad rush to find out where this incredibly talented writer is taking you.” Ann Packer, bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier and Songs Without Words

“So imaginative, so heartfelt, so deftly made–a masterful braid of memory and urgency.  Richmond is in top form, and has made a book of exquisite grace.  Certain to be on everyone’s list.” Andrew Sean Greer, bestselling author of The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

“In Golden State, Michelle Richmond slices to the heart of love in so many of its permutations…I was swept up in this lovely, poignant novel, my sadness at its end only mitigated by my pleasure of having experienced its many gifts.” Ayelet WaldmanNew York Times bestselling author of Red Hook Road and Bad Mother

“I  hadn’t read such a gripping, bittersweet, moving novel in ages. Golden State  sweeps you up, whisks you away and doesn’t let you go till the very end. Michelle Richmond, author of the unforgettable “The Year of Fog”, does it again,  and all I can say is “Merci!” Tatiana de Rosnay, NYT bestselling author of Sarah’s Key, A Secret Kept, and The Other Story

“A breathtaking read and one I’ll not soon forget…” Melanie Benjamin, NYT bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife and Alice I Have Been

“A hauntingly original, ticking time bomb of a story...Dazzlingly smart and moving, Golden State doesn’t just shine, it blazes.” Caroline Leavitt, NYT bestselling author of Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow

“Riveting and evocative, GOLDEN STATE understands that love is built on fault lines, and the smallest choice to connect anyway is so valiant and so beautiful. Julie Walker is a bold, broken, flawed, and utterly compelling heroine who hurls her whole weight upon the fragile threads of human connection. I was unable to breathe properly or stop reading, desperate to know what would break and what would hold. Richmond is a writer of rare vision and grace, and GOLDEN STATE is her best book yet. I couldn’t put it down.”Joshilyn Jackson, NYT bestselling author of A Grown Up Kind of Pretty and Gods in Alabama

“Under the pulsing beat of so much drana–a hostage situation, a city in chaos–there’s the quiet thrum of a deeper story: with an unraveling marriage and a damaged sibling relationship, can Michelle Richmond’s heroine find the strength to survive? GOLDEN STATE is a powerful, riveting and heartfelt novel, an ode to San Francisco and to the fierceness of the human spirit.” Ellen Sussman, NYT bestselling author of French Lessons and The Paradise Guest House

“Beautifully written, Golden State is a tender portrait of loss, marriage and sisterhood, all set against a gripping backdrop sure to keep readers’ hearts in their throats as the story unfolds.”  Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls

“Richmond is a brave writer. When trust is shattered, she’s bold to say that forgiveness isn’t always possible. But her character is brave too, and her struggle to survive such total upheaval is an amazing read.” Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

“In Golden State, Michelle Richmond piercingly focuses on a single terrifying day in the life of a woman determined to save the ones she loves against terrible odds, as the city around them crumbles. A fierce and luminous story about love, loss, family, and forgiveness.” Carla Buckley, author of The Deepest Secret

“This is a thoughtful book about how past circumstances change us into the people we are today, for the good or bad. Julie is a sympathetic and relatable character, and readers will definitely feel for her as she goes through her life-changing day.” Parkersburg News and Sentinel

“There’s no denying the suspenseful thrill…..The writer does all things well, from plot to setting…to, above all, characterization.” John Greenya for The Washington Times

“Seldom have we seen a publishing house so excited about an upcoming title, bolstered by starred reviews from such heavy hitters as Library Journal and Booklist, and blurbs from a dozen best-selling authors…In Golden State, Julie is a just-divorced doctor at the VA hospital in San Francisco who’s trying to make her way across the city to grudgingly deliver her troublesome younger sister’s baby, due any time now. But the city is in turmoil, as it’s the day to vote to determine if California will secede. Along the way, Julie confronts an old boyfriend and is caught up in a hostage situation. This one looks ripe for reading groups.” Allen Pierleoni for the Sacramento Bee

Golden State is a book that deftly combines delicate matters of the heart with a heart-thumping hostage situation in the middle of a state and national crisis.  The creative synergy isn’t so much about the suspense of one moment as it is about the life-changing events that can erupt without warning and change everything thought to be matter-of-fact.  Life has no preparation manual, no guide to follow when there is disruption.  What happens next is entirely up to those involved.  Highly recommended to all.” Seacoast Reads

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