Catalina made me homesick for Southern California in a bittersweet, kind of absurd way. Not because of its opulent locations or its obsession with pharmaceuticals and day-drinking. Rather, strangely, the book made me feel nostalgic for SoCal's creeping foundational rot, and the weird culture of glamorous possibility that allows everyone to willfully ignore it.
Los Angeles and its satellites are the perfect backdrop for the novel's dissection of hetero-feminine sexuality, so often presented as a fetish object or sleek vehicle of personal liberation, but here turned violently and subtly inward, devouring its unwilling hosts.— From Devon
A magnetic, provocative debut novel chronicling a young woman’s downward spiral following the end of an affair
Elsa Fisher is headed for rock bottom. At least, that’s her plan. She has just been fired from MoMA on the heels of an affair with her married boss, and she retreats to Los Angeles to blow her severance package on whatever it takes to numb the pain. Her abandoned crew of college friends (childhood friend Charlotte and her wayward husband, Jared; and Elsa’s ex-husband, Robby) receive her with open arms, and, thinking she’s on vacation, a plan to celebrate their reunion on a booze-soaked sailing trip to Catalina Island.
But Elsa doesn’t want to celebrate. She is lost, lonely, and full of rage, and only wants to sink as low as the drugs and alcohol will take her. On Catalina, her determined unraveling and recklessness expose painful memories and dark desires, putting everyone in the group at risk.
With the creeping menace of Patricia Highsmith and the bender-chic of Bret Easton Ellis, Liska Jacobs brings you inside the mind of an angry, reckless young woman hell-bent on destruction—every page taut with the knowledge that Elsa’s path does not lead to a happy place. Catalina is a compulsive, deliciously dark exploration of beauty, love, and friendship, and the sometimes toxic desires that drive us.
An Entertainment Weekly Book to Read in November
One of Elle's 6 Best Books to Read Right Now
"Jacobs' riveting debut novel [is] part California story, part feminist social commentary . . . In Catalina, Jacobs tracks, with a sense of inevitability, the fallout of a woman with the audacity to make her own mistakes." —Agatha French, The Los Angeles Times
"If noir lit with a feminist twist appeals, treat yourself to Liska Jacobs's magnetic debut novel, Catalina." —Elle
"A chilling odyssey of addictive descent that takes its cues from the lounge-chair depravity of Eve Babitz, the drug-addled bathwaters of Kate Braverman, and the icy despair of Joan Didion. If you are someone who likes your female narrators to have shark’s teeth (as I do) and to leave a trail of blood in the water, Catalina delivers plenty of uncomfortable things to digest . . . Dangerous undercurrents that operate just below the surface of all women’s lives rise quickly from the depths in this unsettling and very relevant first novel." —Holiday Reinhorn, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Jacobs swings for the literary fences. Elsa’s story in Catalina has all the inevitability of Emma Bovary’s and Anna Karenina’s with all the darkness of Charles Bukowski and Bret Easton Ellis . . . Catalina is just fun—Elsa’s recklessness makes for a delectably exciting ride—and, if you like your fiction dark, it is deeply satisfying." —Tom Lutz, LALA Magazine
“A woman’s dark inner cyclone is set against the intoxicating sunshine of Southern California in Jacobs’ stylish debut . . . Jacobs shines Elsa’s world to a high gloss. As readers come to learn all that Elsa, a smart and charming antihero, isn’t telling her friends and why, her crew takes on a new light, too. Propulsive, feminist psychological fiction from an author to watch.”
"Bold . . . A memorable character study." —Publishers Weekly
“The narrative tone of Jacobs' debut echoes the numbed nihilism of Bret Easton Ellis' early work, and her protagonist is just as lovely a person as his infamous characters. For those who appreciate the joys of a vicarious bender and the satisfaction of watching creepy people decompensate.”
“Catalina is an extraordinarily engaging study in the tension of opposing forces: youth and world-weariness, beauty and unreliability, good intentions and roads to hell. The backbone of the novel is its relentless unwillingness to apologize for its main character—not for her faults, not for her complexities. Hot damn and about time. Liska Jacobs writes with teeth; this book’s got bite.”
—Jill Alexander Essbaum, New York Times-bestselling author of Hausfrau
“Catalina’s feminist fatale narrator, Elsa, has both the heartbroken cynicism of Daisy Buchanan and the inscrutable seductiveness of Carmen in The Big Sleep. Liska Jacobs writes crystal-clear, hypnotically sensual prose, and Catalina is California noir at its darkest and sharpest.”
—Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man and In the Drink
“In her propulsive debut, Liska Jacobs tells the story of a beautiful young woman’s dissolute downward spiral with precision and insight. Catalina deftly explores the desperate social frontiers where the morals of the privileged class dissolve. You won’t be able to look away.”
—J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times-bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest?
“Catalina is true California, down to the bones and skin, a novel about the places Liska Jacobs knows in her soul. Beauty and the body as currency and betrayal, seekers of love and comfort—her characters blow all that up, and just when you think you know what will happen, Catalina swerves and you are along for the ride.”
—Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here and Highwire Moon
“Sophisticated and surprising, Catalina brings an excitingly modern vibe to the time-honored story of a young woman coming undone in California. Like a love child of Joan Didion and Kate Braverman, Liska Jacobs is a master of menacing cool and the seductive havoc wreaked by self-destruction.”
—Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men and Every Kind of Wanting