“Gold Fame Citrus.” By Claire Vaye Watkins. Riverhead. 342 pages. $27.95.

Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal landscape. Within this environment “Mojavs” have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles two young Mojavs — Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the “forever war” turned surfer—squat in a starlet’s abandoned mansion. The couple’s fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place until they cross paths with a mysterious child and the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger. Ghosting after them are rumors of a “a diviner of water” — and his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes.