Read of the Week: The harder they come by T.C. Boyle


 Three unlikely heroes:
Sten Stensen, a seventy year old Nam vet, is hailed a hero, after overpowering a thug, when he, his wife and a group senior citizens dare to get off their cruise ship in Costa Rica. Back home Sten has to come to grips with the death and destruction his own son, Adam, a very unstable young man, is causing in the forests around San Francisco.
The trio is completed by Sara, a forty year old, anti-government fanatic, who blindly keeps standing up for her beliefs during a routine traffic stop, messing up her life and meeting Adam in the process, filling her with lust and us with dread. 



 I was in a funk. A reading funk. I blamed the Internet, my smart phone, Pokemon go, was sure my brain was turning to mush, unable to concentrate on a simple single page.  I started books, and then lost count of the storyline, couldn't be bother by the conflict created. I used to read a book in a sitting, two days tops. Now I have a large pile on my nightstand and my husband keeps asking me, if I read books he enjoyed or loathed ( spread the misery, bud!). Frustrating! And as writer, shameful.
Then one day I had to take the bus, brought the newest T.C. Boyle to lighten the misery, and I understood. Its not me. It's you!
You, crappy books I have been reading.

My own bus transformed into Sten Stenson's one in Costa Rica.  Every huddle increasing the pressure on his bladder, his irritation surging at the crazy driving skills of the guy at the wheel. The whole ordeal only made bearable by the love for his wife. Sten loaths his retirement and is trying to cope with loss of purpose and strength. He hates being part of the senior cattle being ferried from to sight to sight. End destination: death.
But Sten isn't as helpless as he fears, the moment the group is held at gunpoint his Semper Fi instincts kick in. These first chapters of The harder they come are the best I read in a long time. Evocative as something Paul Bowles would write and gripping as John Grisham could be in his famous introductions.
Up to par to the amazing shipwreck scenes in When the Killing's done.
T.C Boyle is able to crawl so deep into his characters brains, not only to show the usual desires and motivations, no, Boyle nestles in the irritation, in the disregard that we all have for our fellow human beings. Like a comedian Boyle is not afraid to scrape out the truth. As ugly, petty and deluded as it can be. Without embellishment, or fabrication. Destroying our notions of heroism. 

The rest of the book doesn't sustain the highpoint of its beginning, Adam's chapters are feverish, drug filled, a maniacal fantasy look into the world and as fascinating it can be to see the world through mad eyes, it is also challenging.
Sara's chapters are very enjoyable, she is such a doofus, the famous saying:.“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wise people so full of doubts.” come to life.

I don't know another writer whose prose is as starkly honest as this and it makes for the most vivid, entertaining, thrilling experience. It's impossible to keep your distance. It was just what I needed: a transporting read.
Not everything is lost!