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Boyle has proven himself to be a master storyteller who can do just about anything. But even his most ardent admirers may be caught off guard by his ninth novel, for Boyle has delivered something completely unexpected: a serious and richly rewarding character study that is his most accomplished and deeply satisfying work to date.

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Oct 21, 2008

?Drop City? is a riotous read by hedonist Boyle

I was born too late to be a real hippie. Too late for free love. Too late for all-day drug binges. Too late for all those bell?bottomed jeans. That?s just as well, because Drop City transported me?without the risk of overdose or social disease?to a Northern California hippie commune just after the Summer of Love. A finalist for the 2003 National Book Award for Fiction for this novel, author T.C. Boyle expertly captures the highs and the lows of that era, painting the hedonism not as heroism but a lifestyle fraught with both intense pleasure and pain.

Boyle?s fictional commune, the titular Drop City, is populated by a psychedelic cast of characters?most of whom have renounced family, work, and traditional responsibilities for the laid-back, freewheeling, chemically enhanced life. But all is not golden at Drop City. The hair is long (and greasy). The relationships are open (to jealousy and V.D.). The minds are blown (and dulled). Indeed, the psychedelia is mellowed by a lot of gray, which is where Boyle?s immense skills and imagination as a storyteller really shine.

When the marijuana ethic overshadows the work ethic, Solano county seizes the commune land for unpaid back taxes, and the hippie family decides to convoy to a new dream: establishing Drop City North in the wilds outside Fairbanks, Alaska. The Land of the Midnight Sun shines brightly for our comrades, promising them abundant natural resources and unrestricted freedom to live the wild life.

In the end, Boyle makes you glad you were along for the trips, whether via bong or bus. His characters are sympathetic and human, both the California hippies and the Alaskans they befriend. His writing is unrestrained and utterly free of self-consciousness; it?s also downright beautiful at times. The story he tells is involving until the last page, giving you a chance to vicariously live a life as big and bold as that far-northern state.

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