"A good deal about California does not, on its own preferred terms, add up." This sentence, which opens Didion's third chapter in Where I Was From, is characteristic of the sort of pummeling understatement and reserve that characterizes all of Didion's work - humble, free of ostentation, profound in implication. No, the California Didion presents does not add up - a place defined by a jettisoning pioneer spirit "destroyed" by its own sense of development, a place defined equally by class as it is by people who say sentences like "we don't discuss class here," a place , Didion's Sacramento specifically, both defined by and existing in spite of its geography. Her contradictions of place and identity take Didion from one heavily scrutinized example to another - the Spur Posse, Boeing, Douglas, pioneers on the Sierra Nevadas, prisons, insane asylums - and if Didion's argument of conflicted identity doesn't always connect in thinking later about her specifics, the reading is as fluid, as full-bodied in argument and fact, as merciless an investigation as anything she's ever written. Didion has long been defined by her identity to California, something that comes up in all of her writings, whether in New York or El Salvador, so to see her tackle it so specifically - at one point even deconstructing (with fascinating effect) her own first novel, Run River - is a thrill. What will be of most fascination, undoubtedly, will be the 4th section of the book, the short, devastating section detailing the death of Didion's mother, yet what makes this piece so compelling is the grand scale of Didion's research and work - her California becomes a grand exercise in characterization. Her description in this section is some of the most agonizingly evoked, rich, and understated work of her career, and if the sections preceding it - highly descriptive, full of research often much fuller and drier than expected - can seem aimless when thinking about them, the finest compliment I can give Where I Was From is that, in the effortless and moving reading of the book, it evokes exactly what Didion wants of California, of her, and of her mother, and no more.