Constant Breaks from California

This review was written for the Left Hand Valley Courier, in partnership with Inkberry Books and will appear in the Nov. 22 edition of the paper. You all are getting a sneak peek!

I don’t read memoirs very often, which is a shame because they are so unique and interesting. That’s certainly the case with Kelly Daniels’ book Cloudbreak, California.

What is perhaps most unique about it is the way it’s organized. There’s a sense of chronological order–the first chapter begins with Daniels reflecting on his childhood–but as the story progresses, we revisit the past alongside him. For example, there’s this excellent part where Daniels is describing a sojourn into a Guatemalan town and along the way, he sees a surfer “duck dive under a wall of foam” (85).

This sight catapults Daniels, and readers along with him, into a memory from his youth, when he wanted to emulate Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and badly he reacted to smoking pot for the first time.

I liked the flashback style episodes in the middle of the larger narrative, it felt very real to how a lot of people think–seeing or hearing something that reminds us of times gone by. I also think it gave a lot of context to Daniels as both a person and a character.

Despite the fact that this is a memoir, I still say “character” for a few reasons. The first being that this book largely takes place in the 90s (and possibly into the early 2000s, it’s a little hard to determine), so while it’s nonfiction, it isn’t necessarily representative of the person Daniels is now. Secondly, Daniels has an incredibly detailed and lovely writing style–it almost feels like a fictional novel.

This is accomplished, in part, because of some of the events that happen–like Daniels meeting a skittish man named Walter who ran away because he thought his friend might sacrifice him, only later to run into the man Walter ran away from. Or when he meets the lovely Gaby, they have a bit of a star-crossed romance and she leaves, only to come back after he almost has a tryst with some pretty brunette.

These anecdotes almost inspire a “no, that can’t possibly have happened” reaction. And I think some of that reaction, in turn, comes from the way Daniels describes his past self.

Something about his various treks throughout Latin America remind me of the way Gabriel García Márquez or Carlos Ruiz Zafón create and describe their protagonists.

He’s moody, introspective, a little lost, looking for adventure. He’s relatable to some degree and yet you’re not entirely sure if you’re supposed to root for him or not. But you want to know what happens next, you want to know if he’ll run away (again), if he’ll ever talk to his father (again) and what happened to him in the end (the epilogue gets a little meta as he writes about himself writing this book, presumably).

It’s a bit of an adventure, and I’m here for it. I’d definitely recommend if you like memoirs, if you want something new, and if you want a break from the usual type of story-of-my-life book. It’s no “this is how I rose to greatness,” nor is it along the lines of “this is how I hit rock bottom.”

I’d describe it as a slightly unconventional coming-of-age story with some adventure and self exploration mixed in, and I definitely enjoyed it.

Thank you again to Inkberry Books for the recommendation, that’s all I’ve got for this week!

I’ll be taking an extended break for the holiday season, but if I read something that I just have to tell y’all about, I will, so keep an eye on this site 😉

Happy Reading!


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