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When the Killing's Done: A Novel Hardcover – February 22, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Boyle (The Women) spins a grand environmental and family drama revolving around the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara in his fiery latest. Alma Boyd Takesue is an unassuming National Park Service biologist and the public face of a project to eradicate invasive species, such as rats and pigs, from the islands. Antagonizing her is Dave LaJoy, a short-tempered local business owner and founder of an organization called For the Protection of Animals. What begins as the disruption of public meetings and protests outside Alma's office escalates as Dave realizes he must take matters into his own hands to stop what he considers to be an unconscionable slaughter. Dave and Alma are at the center of a web of characters—among them Alma's grandmother, who lost her husband and nearly drowned herself in the channel, and Dave's girlfriend's mother, who lived on a sheep ranch on one of the islands—who provide a perspective that man's history on the islands is a flash compared to nature's evolution there. Boyle's animating conflict is tense and nuanced, and his sleek prose yields a tale that is complex, thought-provoking, and darkly funny—everything we have come to expect from him. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Boyle’s great subject is humankind’s blundering relationship with the rest of the living world. In his thirteenth novel, he transports us to California’s Galapagos, the surprisingly wild Northern Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. There a stormy, cliff-hanging tale of foolhardy and treacherous journeys unfolds, anchored to the tough women in two indomitable matriarchal lines. A 1946 pleasure cruise gone wrong shipwrecks Beverly on the island of Anacapa. Decades later, her ambitious biologist granddaughter, Alma, oversees the National Park Service’s hubristic efforts to rid Anacapa, and neighboring Santa Cruz Island, of invasive animal species in organized killing sprees. Dreadlocked businessman Dave LaJoy, a man of rage and aberrance, along with his lover, Anise, the last child raised on Santa Cruz, where her mother worked on a doomed sheep ranch, incites reckless protests with chain-reaction consequences. Incisive and caustically witty, Boyle is fluent in evolutionary biology and island biogeography, cognizant of the shared emotions of all sentient beings, in awe over nature’s crushing power, and, by turns, bemused and appalled by human perversity. Boyle brings all these powers and concerns to bear as he creates magnetic characters and high suspense, culminating in a piercing vision of our needy, confused, and destructive species thrashing about in the great web of life. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Famous for his avidly attended public appearances, Boyle has seen his readership multiply following the huge success of The Women (2009). --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (February 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022328
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've read all of T. C. Boyle's novels, and most of his short stories, so I'm accustomed to his penchant for florid, baroque prose. However, in his previous novel, The Women, I found myself more distracted than usual by his Rube Goldberg sentences. And in this new book, it seems that almost every sentence is interrupted by numerous paranthetical asides that clog the flow of the narrative and weigh the sentence down with massive amounts of non-essential detail.

If anyone else with a lesser gift for language attempted this sort of thing, I doubt anyone would be reading that author, but Boyle almost gets away with it. Parts of this book are beautifully told, and in places it's as engrossing as one would expect from Boyle. But everything has to be described down to the nth detail, and in places it becomes almost exhausting.

A person can't just walk into the kitchen and make a sandwich. They walk into the kitchen and before you find out what happens next, you're presented with a mini-biography including things the person's grandparents did in Poughkeepsie back in 1829. Then you get back to the making of the sandwich, but before the sandwich gets made, you get a full list of ingredients, including the character's childhood fondness for some of those ingredients based on certain formative experiences. I'm exaggerating somewhat to make my point, but not that much.

The story itself moves in fits and starts. The shipwreck of Alma's grandmother is very well told, as is the sequence of Rita's life on the sheep farm. Dave LaJoy is an interesting character, if only because he is so stupid and obnoxious. His opponent, Alma, is less well delineated; LaJoy is a self-absorbed fanatic while Alma seems almost like the voice of reason.
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Format: Hardcover
Never one to shy away from sacred cow territory or the ruthless ways in which humans stampede it, T.C. Boyle's latest wise epic puts ecologists on a restless collision course with agitated animal rights activists. In his vintage style of tackling issues with snarling drama and incendiary humor, Boyle plots a political novel without sending the reader a preachy message, although he comes right up under it.

Boyle turns eco controversy on its head, turning back to the theme that man's desire to keep a clean footprint on the earth is a messy and dirty job, often with dire consequences. This is Boyle; bully pulpits are bent with irony, and righteousness is fraught with disobedience. Endangerment of the species brings on reckless endangerment of lives. Who has the right to dominate, to possess this planet? Humans, creatures, natural inhabitants, invasive species--several are examined, many left wanting--especially humans.

Restoration ecologist/ biologist and PhD Alma Boyd Takesue spearheads a program with the National Parks Service to exterminate invasive species on the Channel Islands of California. She argues that the infestation of rats and feral pigs are killing off the endemic Channel Island Foxes and disrupting the natural ecosystem.

Her dreadlocked nemesis, businessman Dave LaJoy, knows all about disruption. He protests every one of Alma's presentations to declare war on her efforts, and is opposed to the idea that extirpation leads to preservation. No public presentation by Alma is without LaJoy's outcry.

" `How can you talk about being civil when innocent animals are being tortured to death? Civil? I'll be civil when the killing's done and not a minute before.
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Format: Hardcover
In all our communities, we and our neighbors usually share views that are polar opposites. In T.C. Boyle's new novel, When the Killing's Done, he presents the extremes of environmentalism: scientists working to restore ecosystems by killing invasive species versus the animal rights activists who want no animals killed. Boyle builds complexity and empathy into each character, and the conflict in the novel matches the high-decibel rhetoric that dominates our community life. Both sides of this conflict intervene in the ecology of California's Channel Islands. This may be the first Boyle novel that did not have me stop to run to my dictionary every few dozen pages. He maintains his fine style of writing without the distraction of using a vocabulary that strains a reader's patience. As with other fine novels, this is also a story about family and relationships, and each relationship contains complexity and nuance that will keep readers engaged and entertained. Boyle is one of our finest writers, and this novel respects the intelligence of readers and leaves it to us to consider the issues he raises.

Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)
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Format: Hardcover
Boyle has constructed a complex model of human conflict which demonstrates how our limited perception prevents the resolution of even minor differences. The interesting thing is that Alma Takesue and Dave LaJoy are only a notch apart. They share similar values regarding nature and man's place in it. They want to protect it, which means they want to mess with it. They are both practice a kind of vegetarianism, which is Boyle's sly way of asserting that a vegetarian diet is no substitute for ethical principles. If the novel seems to meander a bit at first, it is only because Boyle is setting up a number of parallel threads that he will ultimately weave together. For instance, in the opening scene, the young woman on the floundering vessel at sea thinks of Coleridge's poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Now you might think it is an inappropriate time to be thinking about Romantic poetry, but Beverly's thought sets the theme for the entire novel. Beverly recalls what her English teach said about the poem. "...it was about nature, the power of it, the hugeness. Don't press your luck. Don't upset the balance. Let the albatross be. Let all the creatures be, for that matter ..." Boyle underscores this theme in countless ways. The sinking of the Beverly B. also foreshadows the sinking of another small craft at the end of the novel. It is really very nicely done. If your first reading does not reveal all of this lovely structure, go back and read the novel again. It is a very satisfying piece of fiction.

Remember that Boyle is a novelist not a biologist. He is an observer of human activity and human nature and human errors. This business on Santa Cruz just provided him with a really good example of good intentions gone awry. (I had to check on the Internet.
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