Right Back Where We Started From

If misfortune hadn’t gotten in the way, Sandra Sanborn would be right where she belongs–among the rich and the privileged instead of standing outside a Hollywood studio wearing a sandwich board in hopes of someone discovering her. It’s tough breaking into acting during the Great Depression, but Sandra knows that she is destined for greatness. After all, her grandmother Vira crossed the country during the Gold Rush and established the Sanborns as one of San Francisco’s most prominent families, and her mother Mabel grew up in a lavish mansion and married a wealthy rancher. Success, Sandra feels, is in her blood. All she needs is a chance to prove it.

In between failed auditions, Sandra receives a letter from a man claiming to be her real father, which calls into question everything she believes about her family history–and herself. As she tries to climb the social ladder, family secrets lurk in the background, pulling her back down. Until Sandra confronts the truth about how Vira and Mabel gained and lost their fortunes, she will always end up right back where she started from.

Right Back Where We Started From is a sweeping, multigenerational work of fiction that explores the lust for ambition that entered into the American consciousness during the Gold Rush and how it affected our nation’s ideas of success, failure, and the pursuit of happiness. It is a meticulously layered saga–at once historically rich, romantic, and suspenseful–about three determined and completely unforgettable women.


"This is a novel of California dreaming, from the Gold Rush to the Hollywood Hills. Lanzendorfer writes with charm, style, and great energy."

Ellen Sussman, New York Times bestselling author

"Joy Lanzendorfer artfully weaves a beautifully textured saga...Gripping prose and memorable and complex characters make this shining debut a pleasure to read."

Liza Nash Taylor, author of Etiquette for Runaways

"Joy Lanzendorfer has crafted a terrific first novel, one brimming with energy, wit, and emotional resonance... The novel captures, vividly, some of the crazier times in California’s crazy history. Highly recommended!”

Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others

"Regardless of how you feel about the women, this is a story that comes alive around you, immersing you in the eras so that you’re startled when you look up and realize you’re not there with them."

Quiet Fury Books

Awards & Accolades


BookClubs.com: "Perfect Paperbacks Pick for the Summer"


Diablo Magazine: "Must Read Summer Books"