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The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

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The Harder They Come is genius author T.C.  Boyle's 15th novel. It was published this spring to rave reviews and while I have a love/hate relationship with Boyle's work, this one I love.

Multi layered, and not a “pretty” book, The Harder They Come grabs you from the first page and makes you think as you work your way through the stories of the three damaged people at its center.

The opening chapter tells the story of Sten, a retired high school principal and Vietnam veteran, who is on a cruise with his wife, Carolee. At a port of call, Sten and Carolee are on an ill-advised excursion into a remote area when they and other passengers are held up by local bandits. As fellow cruise mates watch, Sten’s military training kicks in, and he subdues the attackers  to cheers and applause.  Sten is their hero, until they uneasily realize that he has crushed the attacker’s windpipe, killing him.

The next character we meet is Sara, a fiercely independent Californian who makes her living as a farrier, tending to horses and other animals, cleaning their hooves and shoeing them. Sara lives, intentionally, off the grid of society, and swears no allegiance to the US of A, which causes some interesting conversations with police who take exception to her refusal to license her car or her animals.

Our third main character is Adam, a young man with mental issues, and a propensity for violence.  Adam, it turns out, just happens to be Sten’s son, and Sara’s lover.

These three story lines are braided together with mounting suspense, in a most skillful way.

I highly recommended The Harder They Come. It will be fascinating discussion for book clubs that are not afraid of tough issues.


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