The Harder They Come: A Novel

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9780062349378: The Harder They Come: A Novel

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author T.C. Boyle makes his Ecco debut with a powerful, gripping novel that explores the roots of violence and anti-authoritarianism inherent in the American character.

Set in contemporary Northern California, The Harder They Come explores the volatile connections between three damaged people—an aging ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran, his psychologically unstable son, and the son's paranoid, much older lover—as they careen towards an explosive confrontation.

On a vacation cruise to Central America with his wife, seventy-year-old Sten Stensen unflinchingly kills a gun-wielding robber menacing a busload of senior tourists. The reluctant hero is relieved to return home to Fort Bragg, California, after the ordeal—only to find that his delusional son, Adam, has spiraled out of control.

Adam has become involved with Sara Hovarty Jennings, a hardened member of the Sovereign Citizens’ Movement, right-wing anarchists who refuse to acknowledge the laws and regulations of the state, considering them to be false and non-applicable. Adam’s senior by some fifteen years, Sara becomes his protector and inamorata. As Adam's mental state fractures, he becomes increasingly schizophrenic—a breakdown that leads him to shoot two people in separate instances. On the run, he takes to the woods, spurring the biggest manhunt in California history.

As he explores a father’s legacy of violence and his powerlessness in relating to his equally violent son, T. C. Boyle offers unparalleled psychological insights into the American psyche. Inspired by a true story, The Harder They Come is a devastating and indelible novel from a modern master.

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Review:

An Amazon Best Book of April 2015: It is a testament to T.C. Boyle’s worldview and authorial skill to say that, while The Harder They Come is not always a taut narrative, it is a book that embraces the reader and takes him where he’s supposed to go. After opening with a tightly-plotted set piece (in which one of three main characters kills a local bandit after his cruise ship lands in Costa Rica), the novel settles down into a more leisurely pace. We are introduced to Sten, a seventy-year-old former marine (he killed the bandit), who lives in Mendocino County, California with his wife Carolee. He’s not particularly proud of what he did in Costa Rica, even if it garners him a little local acclaim. Sten is more concerned about his twenty-something son, Adam, who calls himself Colter after the real-life, wilderness-inhabiting guide for Lewis and Clark. Adam/Colter, who is living in the woods and descending into some serious mental health issues, has taken up with Sara Jennings, a fortyish woman inclined toward libertarianism. The other thing that Sten is concerned about is a group of local drug mules who are poisoning the forest around his community and generally raising havoc. These concerns conspire to lift the pace of the novel around the midpoint, where violence starts its inevitable creep back into the story. Reading The Harder They Come works on two levels—it’s a fun, thoughtful novel and it’s a darker rumination on the intersection between the myth of the west and the reality of it. This is an enjoyable novel that balances story with big ideas. The more I think about it, the more in awe I am of Boyle’s talent. – Chris Schluep

From the Back Cover:

From New York Times bestselling author T.C. Boyle, a powerful, gripping novel that explores the roots of violence and anti-authoritarianism inherent In the American character

Set in contemporary Northern California, The Harder They Come explores the volatile connections between three damaged people—an aging ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran, his psychologically unstable son, and the son's paranoid, much-older lover—as they careen toward an explosive confrontation.

On a cruise to Central America, seventy-year-old Sten Stensen unflinchingly kills an armed robber menacing a busload of tourists. The reluctant hero is relieved to return home to Fort Bragg, California—only to find that his delusional son, Adam, has spiraled out of control.

Adam has become involved with Sara, a hardened member of a right-wing anarchist group that refuses to acknowledge the laws of the state. Adam's senior by some fifteen years, she becomes his protector and inamorata. As Adam's mental state fractures, he becomes increasingly delusional until a schizophrenic breakdown leads him to shoot two people. On the run, he takes to the woods, spurring the biggest manhunt in California history.

As T.C. Boyle explores a father's legacy of violence and his powerlessness in relating to his equally violent son, he offers unparalleled insights into the American psyche. Inspired by a true story, The Harder They Come is a devastating and indelible novel from a modern master.

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Book Description Ecco. 1 Cloth(s), 2015. hard. Book Condition: New. On a vacation cruise to Central America with his wife, 70-year-old ex-Marine Sten Stensen kills a gun-wielding robber menacing a busload of senior tourists, in this novel by the author of The Road to Wellville and Talk Talk. The reluctant hero is relieved to return home to Fort Bragg, California, after the ordeal, only to find that his delusional son, Adam, has spiraled out of control after becoming involved with Sara Hovarty Jennings, a hardened member of the anarchist Sovereign Citizens' Movement. Although Stensen endeavors to connect with Adam, the increasingly paranoid young man kills twice, spurring a massive manhunt in the mountains."[This book] is a masterly—and arresting—piece of storytelling, arguably Mr. Boyle's most powerful, kinetic novel yet."—NYTimes 385. Bookseller Inventory # 64801

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