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A Friend of the Earth Hardcover – September 11, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The Viking Press; 1st edition (September 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670891770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670891771
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #990,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If, as we are frequently cautioned, ecological collapse is imminent, the future might someday resemble T.C. Boyle's vision of Southern California, circa 2025: strafing wind, extortionate heat, vast species extinction, and a ramshackle, dispirited populace. A more bleak backdrop--part Blade Runner, part Silent Spring--for his eighth novel is difficult to imagine. But the ever-mischievous, ever-inventive Boyle is all too willing to disoblige; and so, in extended homage to early Vonnegut, his Sierra Club nightmare is rendered, well, comically. Toss in streaks of unabashed sentimentality, a scattershot satire, and several signature narrative ambushes, and A Friend of the Earth only further embellishes the already prodigious Boyle reputation.

During the 1980s and '90s, Ty Tierwater had exchanged a sedately acquisitive existence--"the slow-rolling glacier of my old life, my criminal life, the life I led before I became a friend of the earth"--for a fairly ambivalent position on the front lines of an ecoterrorist posse called Earth Forever! The only complication is his dual penchant for empathy and ineptitude, exacerbated by a frustration that swells with accumulating incitements. After his daughter is taken from him, and his second wife, Andrea, becomes more committed to the cause than to their marriage, Ty finds solace in blind destruction. He serves his almost predictable terms in jail; he endures the eventual death--and martyrdom--of his activist daughter, Sierra. At 75, and a quarter of the way into the dismal and decayed 21st century, he unaccountably finds himself tending an eccentric rock star's private mini-zoo of ragged animals and wryly lamenting the collapse of his race. And then Andrea resurfaces--along with his long-fallow faith in love.

Old Testament digression stalks Ty throughout A Friend of the Earth, from a publicity-stunt-cum-Edenic-retreat during his heady Earth Forever! days to a chaotic menagerie roundup amidst flooding rainfall. Boyle's future, however, is less apocalyptic than resigned, more drearily pragmatic than angst-ridden. It's a world Ty ultimately finds untenable: a constricted diversity, ecological or ideological, proves stultifying, a fact he only dimly recognized while awash in his earlier radicalism. "To be a friend of the earth," he avers in retrospect, "you have to be an enemy of the people." Boyle's spirited tale sustains the brashness of Ty's convictions. --Ben Guterson

From Publishers Weekly

Mordantly funny and inventive, this take-no-prisoners novel revolves around a few of Boyle's favorite themes: obsessive hygiene, compulsive consumerism, uneasiness in the natural world and fear of technology. As the Vonnegutishly named Tyrone "Ty" O'Shaughnessy Tierwater reminds readers, "to be a friend of the earth you have to be an enemy of the people." In the year 2025, Ty is 75, by contemporary standards a young-old man, and zookeeper for a private menagerie in Santa Ynez, Calif. Most mammals are extinct, and the environment as 20th-century humans knew it is destroyed. Besieged by floods, drought and Force 8 winds, people tramp through pestilential mud, eat farm-grown catfish and drink rice wine. In flashbacks from the frenetic 21st-century sections to Ty's past as a rabid environmentalist in the late '80s and early '90s, Boyle choreographs a syncopated dance, riffing on the mores and manias of environmental crusaders. To prove a point in their early campaign, Ty and wife Andrea spend 30 days naked and unprovisioned in the wilderness, emerging triumphant. But otherwise, Ty is subjected to a lifelong series of humiliations, and his forthrightness about them makes him sympathetic, while eco-warriors in general are skewered as relentlessly as the bulldozer-driven corporations. A bad time is had by all, most notably by Ty's daughter, the tree-sitting Sierra, who, unlike Julia Butterfly Hill (the real-life tree-sitter who surely influenced Boyle), does not descend from her perch to publishing contracts and public radio interviews. Boyle (The Tortilla Curtain) allows for a hint of redemption in the end, but his depiction of the cruel fate of humankindAthe fate of monkey wrenchers, lumber companies, the not-quite-engaged and the engaged, tooAis as unflinching as it is satirical. Major ad/promo; first serial to Outside magazine; 8-city author tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Male or female, I don't think the book tends to cater to one over the other.
Portraits of M.E.
It is poignant in a way that when you get to the arc of the story you stop and read a sentence again just to let it resonate through you.
C. Garcia
Read this book and enjoy it for its characters, its sharp prose, its wittiness, and its engrossing narrative technique.
James L. Murphy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By B. Musler on January 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
While it's true that the protagonist of this book is an eco-terrorist, he is also a father and husband and this is a novel primarily concerned with reconciling family life with personal responsibility to create a life that makes some kind of sense. In this Ty Tierwater is a self professed failure and so I don't believe Boyle intended this as a "message" novel. While Boyle's research adds immeasurably to the appeal of the story interpreting it exclusively through the lens of eco-politics is a mistake that will rob one of its considerable pleasures. (And to measure it by the conventions of science fiction is beside the point entirely.)

So why should you read this book? Because the sentences burst with flavor in your mouth. Also because it's a wonderfully crafted novel. The first person narration is convincing to the point that I completely identified with Ty even as I came to realize he was in many ways a self destructive crank likely to do as much harm as good to those around him. The book's time structure -- jumping from past to present -- is an effective technique for helping the reader trace evolving relationships (especially between Ty, wife Andrea, and daughter Sierra) and understand the impact of decisions over time. And finally, Ty tells his story with passion and intelligence in spite of an enroaching emotional exhaustion that matches the degradation fo the biosphere (a terrific act of authorial slight of hand, btw.)

Ecopolitics and craft aside, when you come right down to it the reason to read "A Friend of the Earth," is because Boyle creates an unforgettable character in Ty Tierwater. Love him or hate him, you won't forget him...or this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Edward on December 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Having read all of T.C. Boyle's previous novels, I knew when I picked up A Friend of the Earth that I would be treated to this author's elegant and poetic writing style. I was not disappointed. This man can truly turn a phrase: a girl has "hair the color of midnight in a cave." Wildflowers are "on fire in the fields." And that's what kept me going until the end of the novel. I didn't find the plot particularly riveting andI wasn't drawn to any of the characters. But the pure poetry of T.C. Boyle's prose carried me along as if I were floating down a clear mountain stream. If you're concerned about global-warming, the rape of the forests by the timber industry, and the struggle to save the Earth from the clutches of humanity--a species that insists on reproducing and using up every last vestige of the Earth's resources, then read this book. If not, you may enjoy it anyway, if only for the beautiful writing contained herein.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Anon on July 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
TC Boyle writes about way-out-there characters, and *A Friend of the Earth* is no exception. Ty, the main character, used to be a member of an eco-terrorism group like Earth First! (called here, Earth Forever!) before events in his own life changed him and the environment collapsed.

One thing that I really enjoy about TC Boyle's work in general and *A Friend of the Earth* in particular is the way Boyle contemplates time. Here, the book alternates chapters between Ty's life as a young father and then eco-terrorist in the 1980s and 1990s and events in the eco-ravaged world when Ty is a young-old person in 2025. In the intervening three decades, Ty has changed dramatically as a human being (though we can see the roots of his changes) and the world changes. Only 25 years ago, Reagan had just begun his presidency, Germany was two countries with a wall between them, and the biggest threat to our lives was the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain, and enough nukes pointed at us to destroy the world 1000 times over. In 1990, 16 years ago, Clinton was in his first term, his opinion was that our greatest challenge in America was race relations, the Soviet Union was in shambles, and Berlin Wall rubble was being sold by mail order, because there was no Ebay. Five years ago, in July, 2001, everybody was getting rich on internet stocks, housing prices were stagnant, people were still arguing about hanging and dimpled chads, and we had two blissful months of navel-gazing left before we the public started worrying about Osama bin Ladan, radical Islamists, burkas, rape rooms, WMDs, and Middle Eastern wars. Time changes things. Time changes people. Boyle understands that better than most other writers and uses it in his novels.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on October 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"To be a friend of the earth is to be an enemy to people" proclaims the narrator of Boyle's pointed new novel. He is Ty Tierwater, a self-proclaimed monkey-wrencher and follower of an Earth First!-inspired extreme environmental group. He relates his tragicomic life story in the year 2026; global warming has devastated the weather and led to the extinction of most of the species on earth. But Ty is only partially motivated by concern for the planet; is is also driven by savage misanthropy. Rage, born of early tragedies, fills his mind. Ty Tierwater is seduced by the environmentalist vision and then betrayed and destroyed by the people in the movement; he becomes a victim of fashionable elitists like the Japanese kid in Boyle's "East is East." His portrait of the greens is truly disturbing; he sees them as manipulative little '60's kids who never grew up and accepted adult respnsibilities. Ty's extremism costs him his teenage daughter, who is revered as a martyr to the cause but in fact died in the most meaningless way. That he and his comrades turn out to be right about the coming global catastrophes only lends a further measure of bitter humor to Boyle's mix. What did they accomplish? The devasating last line of the last chapter before the epilogue will tell you in the starkest possible terms. If this book seems a little thinner than usual, it could be that Boyle was exhausted after writing the majestic "Riven Rock." It's still very worth reading, from perhaps the most entertaining author in America.
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More About the Author

T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World's End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.

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