Former environmentalist cares for a motley menagerie in Boyle's futuristic comedy
T.C. Boyle writes with grace, skill, humor, and agility. From one sentence to the next, he can make a reader think, puzzle over an an unexpected plot development, and laugh out loud. His imagination blooms in every paragraph, leaving the reader invigorated. Boyle's previous books have demonstrated that he can enlighten, entertain, and exhilarate, and he delivers once again with his latest novel, A Friend of the Earth.
The best-selling author of Riven Rock and Budding Prospect, T. Coraghessan Boyle is best known for The Road to Wellville, a wild story about Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the corn flake. With A Friend of the Earth, Boyle takes us to the future, 2025 to be exact. In Santa Ynez, California, the estate of a faded rock star includes a private menagerie of creatures no one else would want warthogs, hyenas, sad-looking lions. Tyrone O'Shaughnessy Tierwater, former radical environmentalist, manages these creatures. What has happened to the all the other creatures of the Earth? Well, they're all extinct. Mammals, birds, reptiles, fish most of them are wiped out. The biosphere has crumbled.
And now Andrea, his former wife, comes to see Tyrone. He's 75, his militant tree-hugging days behind him. The two begin a relationship again, and their involvement leads to a story only Boyle can tell. Were Salvador Dali still alive, he'd appreciate Boyle's novels. They're surreal, comical, and tragic. Beneath Boyle's luxuriant canvas of vibrant colors are deeper explorations of social issues. In A Friend of the Earth the issue is concern for the environment and for what humans have done, not only to the world we live in and share, but also to ourselves. The folly of our ways is tragic, but it's also funny and makes for good reading. A Friend of the Earth should add to Boyle's well-deserved and growing reputation as a talented novelist.
Jonathan Shipley is the publications coordinator for a Seattle company.