Kingdom Come, CA

A Novel

Reviews for Kingdom Come, CA

A clear new voice offering a startling, memorable debut. In this psychological thriller, a reclusive artist opens up to her new neighbors with life-changing consequences. For her eighth birthday, in 1978, Ruby Wellman asks to visit the pier in Santa Monica, California. After winning prizes and riding the Ferris wheel, the family, driving home, suffers a horrific car accident. Ruby blames herself. Now a 40-something painter, Ruby, a loner, lives in the small town of Kingdom Come, Ca. enjoying the company of her dog, Tonto, and a few close friends. Ruby is devastated to learn that a family is about to move in just around the corner. When Hannah and Mischa McCord arrive, their six year old son, Finn, an introverted child, bonds quickly with Ruby. As Ruby and Finn grow closer, secrets kept by the McCords threaten to unravel their newly formed relationship. In her debut, Strick successfully writes with the confidence if a seasoned author. Her prose is often striking: “I fall asleep each night to the hoot of the owl in the oak near my window, to the breezes, to the silence of the stars.” Elsewhere, she wonderfully conveys the intensity of the artist at work: " I’m addicted to the zone I enter, when I click off the workings of my nattering mind.” As Ruby and Finn’s bond strengthens (represented through nightmares and surreal paintings), the narrative’s emotional layers grow increasingly complex; characters like Ruby’s mother and best friend, Charlie, achieve beautiful realization. Whether Strick’s final reveal is garish, or truly shocking will be up to the reader- but it is executed masterfully.
— From Kirkus Reviews
The debut of an intensely impressive author

"KINGDOM COME, CA is an astonishingly fine book - and the fact that it is a debut novel makes its appearance all the more important. Judy Strick not only knows how to write a mesmerizing story, but she also knows the climate - physical as well as psychological - of her home, Southern California. She seems to be in contact with those strange phenomena peculiar to Southern California such as the still misunderstood Santa Ana conditions, the quality of air that changes so dramatically in the few miles from the Pacific Ocean through the various disparate valleys to the mountains, the sense of ever-changing landscape of the city of Los Angeles, and the bizarre poles between Hollywood mindset and Pasadena/Palos Verdes/Beverly Hills modes of looking at life. She has earned her credentials - degrees in writing/film/art from UCLA, the American Film Institute, and the venerable Otis Art Institute and now she blossoms. And this is a Strick Alert - not a water rationing or smog or fire danger alert, but an art alert that somehow manages to wend through those other flags in the way Strick writes her pungent prose.

The novel begins in 1978 with our heroine Ruby Wellman celebrating her 8th birthday at Santa Monica's Ocean Pier wither father, mother and little brother Abe. She dreams of following the promise of seeing China and making wishes form the top of the Ferris Wheel but on the way home from her birthday outing her wandering balloon blocks her father's eyes and the family is in a terrible car accident - and accident which kills her younger brother, alters her professor father's mentation, throws her mother into cloistered depression, and leaves deep seated scars (physical requiring multiple surgeries and mental - guilt and fear of body appearance) on Ruby. Stick then moves her tale to 2012 where the permanently scarred Ruby has deserted her street life in LA as an artist and searches and finds a place of utter privacy in the all but deserted little creek surround village of Kingdom Come, CA. To offer more synopsis would be a disservice to the reader who is exploring Strick's fantasy unattended by reviewer's prejudices. Suffice it to say that the novel is about reality checks, the influence of a strange little boy named Finn McCord whose perception of the world is even more warped than Ruby's, and `a requisite share of colorful and eccentric citizens, including an herbalist guru, a preternaturally clever dog, a dead 40's cowboy movie star, the part-time writer/sheriff, a transplanted New York couple with a rocky marriage, and the Wizard, Finn's new best friend who will come to play an important role in this story.'

Writing of this fascinating quality comes around too rarely. Catch it at it's nascent best. And a big hand for the little lady - Judy Strick. Highly Recommended." 
— Grady Harp, August 14
This Is One Ending You'll Never See Coming!

April 18, 1978 was Ruby Wellman's eighth birthday, a day that was to change her life forever. She wanted nothing more than to ride the Ferris Wheel on Santa Monica Pier. Forever after, ferris wheels would haunt her dreams. Finn McCord, Ruby's new neighbor, is just six years old. Finn doesn't talk to most people, though he talks often to The Wizard. He loves animals - except for cats. Very strange things happen when he is around. Evangeline, the town herbalist, insists that Ruby and Finn's dreams know each other all too well.

"One very warm day last week, just as I was sitting on the porch enjoying the air, Judy Strick's debut novel, Kingdom Come, CA, arrived from her publicist by way of the UPS man. Too hot to do much of anything inside, it seemed like the perfect day to just keep sitting on the porch, so I read one page and then another and another, until before you knew it I had read every word of one of the best reads that has come my way in a long time. Not exactly horror or science fiction or fantasy or magic (despite the presence of The Wizard) or psychic (despite the rather psychic presence of Evangeline the town herbalist), Kingdom Come, CA will almost blind-side you with a surprise ending.

Superbly crafted, hugely enjoyable read!"
— Grandma
What a triumph!

All the other accolades reviewers have written are well deserved, and as good as they could be without becoming spoilers. Judy Strick's underlying theme is about overcoming deep childhood traumas. This could be a bit depressing. But she infuses her main character with such unbridled hopefulness and stunning intelligence that she lightens what could for some readers be a very troubling journey. Most remarkable is how the characters--not just the main ones but every one of them-- are so vividly described they seem completely recognizable. Not just what they look like, but how they express themselves. Even the little dogs that play an important part in the story are convincingly portrayed. Other reviewers have rightly noted her stunningly evocative descriptions of southern California. And so are her verbal snapshots of the places in Kingdom Come where most of the story unfolds. What a triumph!
— August 24, 2014 Amazon Customer (Los Angeles, CA United States)
Completely absorbing story!

The characters, the setting, the writing all pulled me towards the end too quickly. The Southern California setting was dead-on and even the incidental details were perfect. But the characters are what really made this story for me. I finished the book in a day and a half. Stayed up way too late reading because I couldn't put it down. Hard to believe it was a debut novel. I only hope the author can be as prolific as John Irving.
— August 13, 2014 By Katherine R Brandon
A definite "must read!"

I love this book! A real page turner which I couldn't put down until I came to the surprising end! What a tour de force, especially for a first book. I felt I got to know each of the characters and what motivated their actions. Fascinating plot! I can't wait to read more of Ms. Strick's books! Sign me up! Strick's description of the artist at work and Finn's inner world are handled with great skill. "Ruby Wellman, a forty-year old artist arrives in the small central California hamlet of Kingdom Come. Ruby is burdened with a childhood tragedy that she keeps perfectly hidden. Amid all the eccentrics, rednecks, hippies, assorted geezers, and the well-off, Ruby meets Finn, a bright and very troubled six-year old who has a frightening secret of his own. There's a depth to their friendship (including Finn's dreams) that begins to inform Ruby's own painting in unbidden ways. Strick's description of the artist at work and Finn's inner world are handled with great skill. The secrets are revealed in a surprise and very satisfying denouement, so let's give Strick five stars for a terrific debut novel."
— August 3, 2014 By Lynn Winter Gross