Tuesday, August 21, 2012

'So L.A.' by Bridget Hoida

Reviewed by Lindsey
5 stars

Beautiful Magdalena de la Cruz breezed through Berkeley and built an empire selling designer water. She’d never felt awkward or unattractive… until she moved to Los Angeles. In L.A. where “everything smells like acetone and Errol Flynn” Magdalena attempts to reinvent herself as a geographically appropriate bombshell—with rhinestones, silicone and gin—as she seeks an escape from her unraveling marriage and the traumatic death of her younger brother, Junah. Magdalena’s Los Angeles is glitzy and glamorous but also a landscape of the absurd. Her languidly lyrical voice provides a travel guide for a city of make-believe, where even Hollywood insiders feel left out.

Like a lane change on the 405 freeway during rush hour, Bridget Hoida, skillfully navigates the impossible in So L.A. offering a portrait of contemporary Los Angeles through the penetrating prose of her female protagonist. Evoking a dynamic and materialist landscape, So L.A. introduces readers to the unforgettable voice of an extremely talented new writer. (Amazon Description)

I loved this book. Not what I expected. I honestly expected some sort of smart Melrose Place novel. This book was the complete opposite.

Magdelena has lost herself. She had a brother who died in a rock climbing accident. She has never recovered. She marries, moves to LA and changes herself from the person she used to be, body, mind and spirit.

On a personal note, I got this. I grew up around these people. My mother worked for a cosmetic company that would send her all over the world. We spent one summer in Beverly Hills Hilton. This was normal. I remember being 16 and watching the women talk about their latest "procedures". Discussions went from whose husband left who, to who has let themselves go, on and on. It seemed the norm, but I didn't fit in. I thought at that time that eventually I would have to get things done also; that's what you do when you're old - around 30.

The women, including Mom, never seemed content. There was a underlying rule. Look a certain way and be accepted, be liked. Doesn't matter who you really were, you needed to be liked and thought of as attractive.
As I became older and moved away, these thoughts caused me to feel resentful.  I didn't want to have "procedures". I have witnessed the recovery and it is not for the weak. It all seemed like a lot of pain in order to be liked. Everyone wanted to look the same.

At 6ft tall, brown eyes and brown hair,  that was not going to happen. The whole production turned from exciting and beautiful to exhausting and insecure.

So, I did the opposite. I cut all my hair off ( I can still hear my Mom telling me I'll look like a pin head). Embraced my flannel and jeans (hello...90's grunge?). Dropped out of college, took off for Alaska and began to run.

At 38 I am still in the same mode. Sometimes that is good; sometimes it's not. I don't feel the need to look or act anyway in order to get approval. I just don't need it. Unfortunately , there are so many women who do. It comes out in competitiveness or cruelty at times in order to hide who they really are.

Magdelena purposely causes drama in her life to escape her guilt regarding her brother's death. Sometimes she made me laugh. Other times she irritated me with her righteous attitude of self destructive behavior.

I feared her. She was who I fought against for so long. She is the person  it would have been easier to be at times.It was hard to take the criticism for not looking a certain way. As I get older it's a lot easier.

Overall, Magdelena made me sad.  She made me feel for how lost she was, how unforgiving she was toward herself.  She couldn't comprehend what she was doing was hurting others.

I rarely read books twice, but this one I will definitely read again.

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