I read Tortilla Curtain previously and thought it was a solid novel, so was excited to pick up another book by Boyle, and one that was recommended from my favorite podcast, Literary Disco. If I had to describe Boyle’s writing in one word it would be “unrelenting.” His style can feel like a bit of a slog, but he is a compelling storyteller who shines a light on sub-groups that I don’t often read about, so for me it has felt like I learned a lot along the way.
Initially I found Drop City a little confusing. The story begins with hippies at what is essentially an open living community in California but then, with no discernible reason, picks up another story line of a woman who is choosing between three hardened bachelors to leave civilization behind and become a wife in the remote wilderness of Alaska, and learn to live on the land. There was a similar theme that connected the two plots: a willingness to leave society and all its trappings behind, but still the lack of thread between the two was making me batty. Eventually, these two two concurrent story lines converge but until that was made clear the book was disjointed for me. (Confession time: I cheated and did a little online research because the lack of connection was making me a little nuts).
In retrospect I “see what he did there” and wish I would have been more patient. Spoiler-ish: the hippies decide, when “the man” comes down on them, to seek out a new place for their community in the brutal Alaskan wilderness. Hijinks ensue. And by “hijinks” I mean hardships. And then more hardships.
This book is a thoughtful and hard look at the nature of mankind, and what lengths an individual will go in order to preserve their version of the american dream. This was a book that every time I put it down, I shook my head, surprised to not be in the world that Boyle created. I will continue to pick up his novels, and encourage you to do so as well.