Books »A Friend of the Earth

a friend of the earth tc boyleT.C. Boyle specializes in fringe characters, usually misguided and desperate men who go to extreme measures to quelch their boredom, fear, and/or pain. Drop City and After the Plague, both excellent, adhere to this theme and Boyle's ecological disaster tale, 2000's A Friend of the Earth, is no exception.

The story begins in 2025, Ty Tierwater, a former extreme environmental activist, is living in a world created by all the people that refused to listen to him. Most animals and plants have died out, people survive on catfish and sake and the weather fluctuates between intense extremes due to human triggered climate changes. Humanity is not over, just suffering through a hellish, dying planet, sitting in condos as the rest of the world rots or gets washed away in floods.

You want to sympathize with Tierwater. Clearly in the future scenario Boyle has imagined here, he was right all along and yet the author doesn't paint anything black and white; while Tierwater's intentions and beliefs are good, he's not a thoroughly good man, in many ways he's a downright fool and often an asshole.

Skipping through time to tell his story, we meet his second wife Andrea and his daughter Sierra, both big parts of the environmental movement, both hurt in big ways by Tierwater, who believes that to be a friend of the earth, you have to be an enemy of the people, a troubling and complex way to live as a human being.

Once again Boyle, hands down one of my favorite living writers, presents an unflinching look at the intricacies of hot button issues with no easy answers.

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Posted on April 20, 2009

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