Wrong Way
Ten Bridges I've Burnt

Dead in Long Beach, California

9780374602826 fc
Hardcover, MCD × FSG, 2024
Blackburn  venita by virginia barnes

Venita Blackburn

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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.

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  • "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, author of If I Survive You

  • "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

  • "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, author of With Teeth
  • "There are no wasted words in the fictions of Venita Blackburn. Her stories are quick as lightning; her sentences, entire lifetimes flashing by. A clause might pierce a character’s frailties, a word might tip the analysis into absurdity . . . In this enthralling story about farcical invention in the face of calamitous grief, the writing is taut as ever. " 

    —Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times

  • "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 Matthews, author of All This Could Be Different

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