Out of the explosive 1970s L.A. art scene comes a riveting novel about creativity, death, and reinvention that follows two artists—one dies mysteriously, and the other takes her place
Paz, an ambitious young artist, is drawn to Romy, one of the only women to break into the male-dominated art scene of 1970s California. She is also drawn to Romy’s husband, Billy, an enigmatic art star. When Romy dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances, Billy is left unmoored, caring for their newborn.
Leaving New York and grad school behind, Paz takes on the mantle of Romy’s life and steps into a ghostly love triangle. When Paz attempts to claim her creative life, strange things start to happen—photographs move, an unexplained postcard arrives, and an unsettling journal entry begins to blur the line between art and life.
As Paz becomes increasingly obsessed with the woman she has replaced and the absent man she has married, a disturbing picture begins to emerge, driving her deep into the desert to uncover the truth.
Astonishing and profound, Utopia affirms Heidi Sopinka as one of the most exhilarating voices in Canadian literature. A propulsive mix of desire, friendship, and betrayal, Utopia illuminates a crucible moment for art and feminism, which still reverberates today. This is both a visionary love story and a feminist manifesto that will leave you altered.
About the author
HEIDI SOPINKA is the author of The Dictionary of Animal Languages, which was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and longlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. A former environment columnist at The Globe and Mail, she is co-founder and co-designer at Horses Atelier. Her writing has won a National Magazine Award and has been anthologized in Art Essays. Her work has also appeared in The Paris Review, The Believer, Brick, and Lit Hub. She lives in Toronto.
The Globe and Mail's "Summer Books Preview: 38 books to escape with this season"
“These brilliant and bold artists explode off the page as they try to transcend the boundaries of the material world in their work. But the most dangerous waters they must navigate are those of the male-dominated world of the 1970s, which erases their art and identities. Sopinka explores the minefield that is loving men in an oppressively patriarchal world. And she captures the volatility and power of female friendships, and the uncharted maps of women's untameable artistic drives.”
—Heather O'Neill, author of When We Lost Our Heads
“With tense and glittering writing, Heidi Sopinka’s Utopia blasts the dry desert sun onto the lives and afterlives of a circle of Californian artists, the women they are and the women they love. This is a thrilling book about artistic inheritance, jealousies and affinities.”
—Leanne Shapton, author of Guestbook and Swimming Studies
“Utopia is a marvel. Vividly beguiling on art, love, and what it means to be alive, every page thrums with magic.”
—Sophie Mackintosh, Booker Prize–nominated author of The Water Cure and Blue Ticket
“Utopia is a bird’s eye view of the desires of the human heart . . . through characters who feel and live deeply at the boundaries of art and life. Sopinka’s luminescent prose tackles the danger and vitality of artistic and bodily desire under the politically charged structures of masculine power . . . with rawness, deep awareness, and razor-sharp critique. . . . This is an urgent book.”
—Angélique Lalonde, Giller Prize–shortlisted author of Glorious Frazzled Beings
"I was transfixed by Heidi Sopinka’s incandescent prose. It blazed through me and touched my heart in the deepest, most tender place. Utopia is about a powerful bond between mother and daughter; the collision of art, performance, and female friendships; and how grief shapes our ability to love and hope. Sexy, devastating, and wise—this novel will make you feel alive."
—Sanaë Lemoine, author of The Margot Affair
"Utopia is a study in contrasts: tart and poetic; sensitive and wild; bright and spooky like the LA light. It drove me onward; it let me linger. It made me angry; it inspired me. Above all, it clinches what we all suspected from The Dictionary of Animal Languages — Heidi Sopinka is a crazy good writer. I'd follow her anywhere."
“Flames of female rage run hot in this shimmering art-world ghost story. . . . Sensual, mysterious, and provocative, Utopia raises essential questions about women’s marginalization in the art world, loss of self and search for artistic grounding, the maternal impulse, and the demands of a life in art.”
—Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
“Utopia is interested in life as performance, in the ways that we attempt to transcend our own bodies, and in what it means to be a woman artist in a world that is run by and for men. Set against the backdrop of the arid California desert, full of scalding cups of diner coffee and burning tarmac highways, this is a book as seething as its parts.”
—Saba Sams, author of Send Nudes
“Tense, sexy, and uncanny. Utopia shimmers with desert heat and burns with atmosphere. It’s Rebecca meets Zabriskie Point. Luminous.”
—Francesca Reece, author of Voyeur
“Utopia is a searing novel about art, ownership, and the entanglement of power and performance. Heidi Sopinka’s sentences have a bluish-orange intensity, a captivating energy that conjures a desert at dusk.”
—Makenna Goodman, author of The Shame
"Sopinka’s promising second novel–-part psychological thriller, part ghostly love story with bright notes of Rachel Kushner-–is set amidst the male-dominated hustle of the late-1970s New York art world."
—The Globe and Mail