The Harder They Come is a modern family drama, set in small-town Mendocino County, California. Eccentric Adam Stenson tries to live “off the grid” after his parents, Sten and Carolee, sell his long-time residence that once belonged to his grandmother. As a modern self-styled “mountain man,” Adam sporadically accepts (or demands) the well-intentioned help of his free-thinking girlfriend, Sarah Hovarty Jennings.
Author T.C. Boyle’s typical rich tapestry of events and characters will not disappoint his fans. Amid enthusiastic reviews by a few hundred reviewers, one on-line criticism of this book was that some of his characters were shallow. This may be somewhat justified, but Boyle usually displays an economy of narrative and he seems to delve deeper when needed. I read this book after attending a lecture where the author talked about researching this novel, which incorporates murder, serious mental illness and the western legend of 19th Century “mountain man” John Colter, a courageous soul who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition early in his career. If you like this novel, you might want to try one of Boyle’s short story collections, or World’s End, his 1988 Pen/Faulkner award-winning historical novel of the Hudson River valley.
Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Mike Luginbill
Rating: Highly Recommended