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on July 17, 2006
With TALK TALK, his eleventh novel, T.C. Boyle has constructed another literate, thoughtful page-turner. The protagonist is Dana Halter, an independent, feisty, attractive woman in her early 30s. She teaches school, enjoys an occasional evening out at loud nightclubs, and has a younger boyfriend named Bridger Martin who adores her. In short, she's a normal, responsible young woman who also happens to be profoundly deaf. The problem is that apparently there's another Dana Halter out there, as she discovers when she's arrested after running a stop sign. This other Dana Halter passes bad checks in multiple states with her driver's license number, her social security number. And this Dana Halter has skipped bail twice. So despite Bridger's best efforts, Dana spends a humiliating, uncomfortable weekend in the San Roque county jail.

"Dana Halter" is only one of the identities that the antagonist Peck Wilson has collected in the years since he was released from prison in New York State. As the book opens, Peck lives as Dr. Dana Halter in a Marin County waterfront condo furnished with nothing but the best for his kitchen (he's a very gourmet sociopath) and his bed (a Russian beauty named Natalia.) He is an old hand at identity theft and manages them carefully, wringing them almost dry before moving on and covering his tracks.

When the real Dana is finally released from jail, she finds that the authorities aren't overly concerned with prosecuting this so-called victimless crime. It's up to her and Bridger to retrieve her impounded car and field phone calls from irate creditors. But Bridger acquires the thief's cell phone number from one such creditor and makes contact. Peck, wanting to cut his losses, informs the wary Natalia that his name is not Dana after all, and trades in her BMW Z4 on a wine-colored Mercedes S500 for their escape from town. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse, Jetta vs. Mercedes chase across the continent that culminates in a final showdown of sorts at a train station in Peck's hometown of Peterskill, New York.

The plot packs a wallop matched by Boyle's inventive language and multi-faceted, believable characters. Dana's "handicap" has made her tough and stubborn; we see the tremendous effort it takes to make herself understood, and how frustrated she gets when she can't. Bridger has learned to sign and she reads lips, but under the fatigue and uncertainty they face, sometimes communication between them breaks down. The thief, Peck, wears his sense of entitlement as naturally and easily as his Italian suits, and in the long stretches of narrative from his point of view, we are equally fascinated and repulsed by his absolute disregard for anyone but himself. Natalia, who he thinks he loves, is really just another fine possession, more complicated than a car perhaps, but manageable by charming lies or threatening fury.

T.C. Boyle is in fine fettle here. He can linger on a character's momentary interior state for a page and a half without boring us, because he can also cover a few days effectively in a single paragraph. Boyle's cleverness makes us smile. "At the impound yard --- CASH OR CREDIT ONLY NO CHECKS --- they waited in line for twenty minutes while the people in front of them put on a demonstration of the limits and varieties of hominid rage." And his incisive similes keep us firmly in a character's head. Here is Peck in an ecstatic mood: "Then it was back down what had to be one of the most scenic highways in the world, the road sliced right out of the side of the mountain like a long abdominal suture holding the two pieces together, and the view had never seemed so exotic to him, sailboats on the river like clean white napkins on a big blue tablecloth, the light portioning out the sky in pillars of fire."

TALK TALK succeeds because it ponders the mysteries of identity and communication while seducing the reader with that most primal of motives: revenge. Will Dana have it, and if she does, what will it cost her? Or will the wily Peck slip under the radar once again?

--- Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 17, 2006
First of all, let me say that I am a huge fan of T.C. Boyle. This book did not disappoint, and was a real page-turner to boot.

Summary, no spoilers:

Dana Halter is a 33 year old deaf woman who teaches at a school for the deaf. One day, on her way to a dental appointment, Dana drives through a stop sign. She is stopped by the police, and she finds out that the officer thinks she has warrants out for her arrest. She is a victim of identity theft.

The man who stole her identity is named Peck Wilson, and he is a violent con man who has been living high off the hog off of Dana and a few others.

The book follows Dana and her boyfriend Bridger Martin, as they attempt to find Peck Wilson, both to reestablish Dana's good name and make sure this doesn't happen again - and also to seek revenge on him for the havoc and misery he has caused.

This is real page turner, and I can tell you because I was a criminal attorney that the arrest/jail/courtoom scenes described in the beginning of the book are spot on. Getting arrested on a Friday is a Bad Thing - especially if it's all been a terrible mistake.

This book was quick paced and lives up to Boyle's high standards. It is also a very frightening book - because we all realize how we could end up like Dana Halter, and have our own lives turned upside down because of the greed and avarice of someone who would steal our identity. And the book shows us how easily that can be done.

Frightening.

Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon November 1, 2006
Dana Halter is a high school English teacher who is deaf. After being pulled over for running a stop sign, she is unexpectedly arrested and thrown in the slammer for numerous outstanding charges. It becomes clear that she has been a victim of identity theft, and Dana becomes obsessed with tracking down the thief.

Boyle is able to wonderfully combine completely disparate elements: a thrilling chase, the frustrating experience of an independent deaf woman, and the protagonist's love of language and words. Boyle's characters and his narrative are nuanced and deep. He burrows into the head of the criminal, who begins to feel like a victim himself. And Boyle delivers various exciting action climaxes.

However, the chase slows down in the second half of the book, and I found myself anxious to get to the finale, which was unfortunately completely anticlimactic. I enjoyed the narrative enough that I still enjoyed the book overall, but - I repeat - the ending was a real disappointment.

The author himself narrates the unabridged audiobook and does a solidly good job. Metacritic, a website that culls the essence of a broad selection of professional reviews, pulled together 25 such reviews of this book (from Salon to the New York Times Book Review): eight reviewers loved it, eight liked it, six were mixed, and three didn't like it.
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on July 15, 2006
I had the privilege of listening to TC Boyle read the first chapter of Talk Talk at the Barnes and Noble in Lincoln Center on July 10th, and it is the day after my day of reading Talk Talk... Now that I have slept on it I still marvel at TC Boyle's imagination that often seems unlike any others and the carefully orchestrated (even if grown organically) design of each of his creations. His imagination literally pieces together bits of data and observations after pondering a topic. TC Boyle shared with event goers how he 'worries about everything all the time,' and it appears that he might just worry about all kinds of people in all kinds of conditions impaired, sociopathic, aliens, split family members, hard working people who get ripped off... the list seems endless as evidenced in his empathy towards all the characters in Talk Talk. I was drawn to Bridger because he fell for Dana without realizing she was deaf and remained faithfully by her side throughout this tale. This character for me stays true to his name, bridging two worlds with a solid foundation. Similar to a junior high kid, Peck is hellbent on trying on everyone else's identity, in effect stealing the most precious thing we all have...ourselves. In my mind Dana is not the main character, but a supporting cast member to the meat of the story...our senses and how they define who we are at times. Talk...is communication, whether it be oral, or body language Taste...is subjective Hearing...is not always with our ears Seeing...with our eyes and our minds Touch...a brush up against someone can communicate (Talk Talk) volumes
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on August 18, 2006
While TC Boyle is clearly a talented writer, he needs an editor with a sharp knife to get rid of a lot of repetitive and redundent descriptions of angry men and food being cooked...Boyle is creative and funny but he seems unsure at times whether or not he likes the characters he is creating. The main characters, a deaf woman and her boyfriend seem to careen out of the writers control about a third of the way through the book, and become weak, whiney and two dimensional in the last third.

The main scoundrel, gets a lot more of the writers attention during the last two thirds of the book, but with mixed results. While I like California cuisine as much as the next northern californian; there were altogether too many descriptions of the scoundrels' cooking and shopping. Were there old copies of Sunset magazine lying around while Boyle was finishing up the script? It does not take more than a couple of descriptions of the scoundrels elaborate food preparations and purchases to get the lifestyle that Boyle is giving this man. The writer needs to learn the California concept of minimalization. Instead of hitting his readers over the head with his condemnation of consumerism, TC would be better served with better character development of his two victims.

There are also multiple descriptions of the perpetrator's rage and his desire to get revenge on those he perceives as wronging him...I never really got it. Sometimes he seemed like an intriguing, even likable scoundral, others times he seemed like a total whack job. It was also confusing that the deaf woman and her boyfriend would be described as experiencing the same kind of rage, in similar terms, and I couldn't figure out what the writer was trying to do with this...That anyone can turn into an irrational roadraging whackjob in the face of minor irritation? Rage as a universal bonding agent bringing us all into the melting pot of contemporary America? I had no idea what he was doing with it and it became tedious and distracting. The tension created by the situations in the book kind of melted away in the confusion.

I did read the whole book. Its an original concept and an edgy twist on something contemporary. Overall, I'd say that I liked it..but TC needs to find himself a good editor.
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on December 22, 2014
I'd admit, before reading this book, to being a bit of a T.C. Boyle groupie. I, at least, admired his prodigious output, loved "Drop City" and "The Women" admired with a bit less enthusiasm "When the Killing's Done" and "World's End" and so expected, at least, my time reading "Talk, Talk" to be well spent. Instead I encountered a tedious, uninspired travelogue with an incoherent and improbable story line that ended not just unsatisfyingly but so abruptly that this reader got the idea that even the author finally realized what drivel he'd produced and so decided to just be done with it. The story opens in San Roque,CA, travels to Mill Valley and then across the interstates to the Hudson River Valley of New York. A reader not unreasonably expecting lyrical writing will be disappointed with Boyle's descriptions competing, often unsuccessfully, with those constructed by a high school creative writing class's bus trip to these same areas. Name dropping restaurants and current tunes on the radio does not, in my mind, approach the content of great, even good writing. Instead from this work I got a sense of the author's contempt for his readers, as if their time was his to waste. And get paid for, I suppose.
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on July 31, 2006
I've never read a book of Boyle's that I didn't like, but I suppose I've liked some more than others. This one is just hard to resist - an absorbing plot, interesting characters, and intelligent writing all in one place. What's not to love?

Other reviewers have given you the general idea of the story - deaf woman goes in search of the man who stole her identity. Frankly, when I read the summaries of this book I wasn't particularly interested. However, I had just finished reading Tooth and Claw and had to have another "Boyle fix," so I bought Talk Talk. I read it straight through, beginning to end, in just about one sitting. Do yourself a favor this summer and read Talk Talk!
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on August 8, 2007
Without being a spoiler, the ending was very disappointing. It is very frustrating to read a book that is well written and keeps your attention, only to get to a very disappointing ending. Sometimes it feels as if authors get tired of writing and just want to say "the end". That is the way that I felt with this book. Good plot... good pace... then you reach the end and "no satisfaction".

Additionally, I felt no sympathy for the villain in this book... despite what the NY Times said in their review.
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on April 23, 2013
One common complaint about other Boyle books is that he does not create very sympathetic characters. I commend him for creating great books without relying on such a cheap device.

Not this time though. With this book you get the idea that the characters are not likable because they are poorly written. You want to feel some degree of sympathy for a deaf woman who appears on almost every page of the book and who is the victim of a crime. Yet she's insufferable! You can't get what her dorky and hapless boyfriend sees in her. You want her to just go away!

The identity thief is self-contradictory and his MO simply not believable. The book has severe continuity problems. Does he live in Sausalito or Mill Valley? Is he being chased by the protagonists in a Jetta or pickup? Who had ever heard of a school administrator dumb and reckless enough to lay off an employee and immediately hiring for their position? A female disabled one at that? Law suit time!

Boyle is a great novelist. I have read all of his books--often on subjects I couldn't have cared less about. This time I would actually care to read a book on identity theft, if it weren't so dull.

One star since it's required. A second one for the fairly good first third of the book and as a get-well-soon gift to the author.
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on August 10, 2006
Its finally happened. Even our identities have become products to be sold or stolen for profit. In T.C. Boyle's terrific "Talk Talk" deaf Dana Halter and her boyfriend chase the identity theft, Wilson Peck, across the U.S. Her extreme reaction is based on a degrading night spent in jail because of the crimes committed in her name. I like that her chase is motivated by revenge and justice and not common sense. Ostensibly, she and her boyfriend expect that when they identify their perpetrator, they will call the police who will immediately respond by arresting him. Hard to believe and when they do spot him, they get in his face to what ends its hard to discern.

I finished "Talk Talk" several days ago and I've remained under its spell. Boyle has created in Dana Halter a fierce, angry and often unlikeable deaf woman. More impressive is that Boyle has produced a full and often sympathetic portrait of a lonely and sad identity thief. Most impressive is that he makes the snarling, animalistic need of these characters palpable and visceral. When I stepped away from the book, I realize that the tone is in a sense misplaced. The magnitude of the horror is really rather slight and yet Boyle made this reader feel the threat, the rank body order, the sweaty sheen of desperation, the compulsion beyond all reason of these character to claim or reclaim what they perceive as their identity at any cost. The book never lingers on the issue of identity beyond its tangible qualities; social security and credit card numbers and profiles. I don't think that's a fault. We know that beneath the surface of this story lurks that big question. Its a question so big that even this story about the theft of tangible identity reveberates with questions about what our intangible identity really means to us and why we cling so desperately to it.
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