It’s possible to leave California.
Not all migrations must go west. Just hop on Interstate-210 and head out past the Miller Brewing Company (“Miller, the Champagne of Beers”), cross the Los Angeles County line and drive through the Inland Empire with its vast swatches of rock and dead earth.
If it is wintertime and there has been rain, the reigning mountaintops might be dusted with snow, almost California postcard pretty. Ignore it. You have other destinations, beyond San Bernardino and Redlands.
You can cut up the 15 and head toward Barstow and before long Las Vegas, that gangster mirage in the desert, will appear, or you can keep going to where the 210 merges with the 10 and head out to Cabazon, people riding dirt bikes and other off road vehicles and gambling in Indian casinos.
You’ll come to the Banning Pass with the windmills and the trains moving along a mountain ridge that is now on your right, and you could go all the way out to Indio or you cut could up through Joshua Tree and really feel like you are leaving, like you have entered alien territory, that it is all behind you . . .
The Whole of the Moon consists of six crisscrossing narratives set along the old Route 66, from the Inland Empire to the terminus just off Sunset Boulevard. The stories span the years from the late 1950s to the present, and the characters are bound by a fact unknown to them: they have each checked out the same public library copy of The Great Gatsby.
An actor sits poolside waiting to hear whether he has been cast in a television pilot. Two kids ditch school in 1964 and go for a hike in the woods that turns dangerous. A woman named Dot remembers her husband who spent years working on a musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby. A young woman Felicity deals with the consequences of an unexpected pregnancy. Mike, a former high school star, attends an open tryout for the California Angels baseball team. And a boarding school teacher tells the story of his cousin, a social climber who has disappeared in the wake of a murder. These are the characters that populate The Whole of the Moon. Brian Rogers’ novel is about determination and failure and life in Southern California away from the red carpet.