Book of the Week: The Harder They Come – T.C. Boyle

My colleagues and I did the happy dance when we heard that T.C. Boyle had signed with Harper’s Ecco imprint where he joins such august company as Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, Richard Ford, Amy Tan, Tom Robbins, Patti Smith, Mary Doria Russell, Richard Dawkins and Simon Schama.

For almost forty years Boyle has been a major voice in our cultural conversation and this novel loses none of the excoriating incisiveness of his previous work. As a fan, I can say he’s at his very best in this story about masculinity, violence, and our American insistence on “freedom.” As the editor notes, “this is a novel of both big action and big ideas, with unparalleled psychological insight into its characters and the larger American psyche.”

Inspired by a true story, the characters and themes of this novel show up in our news headlines almost daily: gun control, a deranged man on a shooting rampage, vigilante violence repackaged as heroism, nonwhites painted as the de facto dangerous “other.” It makes for a searing read.

This is an April Indie Next Pick and there will be major review coverage including the NYTBR, the daily NYT, GQ, Vanity Fair, USA Today, Newsweek, Paste and an original essay in the Washington Post. Additionally, it was just announced that Boyle will receive the 2014 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement at the 35th Annual LA Times Book Prizes.

Boyle’s hypnotic narrative probes the complexities of heroism, violence, power, and resistance. At its heart are ex-Marine and retired school principal ‘Sten’ Stensen and his schizophrenic son, Adam, who arms himself against shadowy ‘hostiles’ and identifies with [a] heroic 19th-century wilderness guide…. [W]hen one of the citizen patrollers challenges him, Adam shoots that man, and soon another. As the manhunt intensifies, Sten realizes his son’s involvement and his own inability to change his son’s fate. Written with both clarity and compassion, each of the novel’s characters inhabits a rich and convincing private world. As they traverse a landscape none of them control, their haunting stories illuminate the violent American battle with otherness.”
— Publishers Weekly

“…Boyle tellingly explores the anger, paranoia, and violence lurking in the shadowlands of the American psyche. A powerful and profoundly unsettling tale.”
— Library Journal (starred review)

“The latest from a prolific and acclaimed novelist, The Harder They Come is a family saga that maps the relationships between the three people at its heart, as their potent mix of violence and paranoia urges them toward tragedy.”
— Huffington Post

“Violence corrodes the ideal of freedom in an ambitious novel that aims to illuminate the dark underbelly of the American dream.”
—  Kirkus Reviews

“T.C. Boyle at his best! I was particularly struck by the concept of otherness in this book. Adam is a true paranoid, but every character in this book struggles with their own paranoias and prejudices. This is what makes Adam’s break and subsequent death such a tragedy. I loved it!”
—  Meredith Whiles Sunley, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

The Harder They Come (9780062349378) by T.C. Boyle. $27.99 hardcover. 3/31/15 on sale.

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