It is 1970, and a down-at-the-heels California commune devoted to peace, free love, and the simple life has decided to relocate to the last frontier—the unforgiving landscape of interior Alaska—in the ultimate expression of going back to the land. Armed with the spirit of adventure and naïve optimism, the inhabitants of “Drop City” arrive in the wilderness of Alaska only to find their utopia already populated by other young homesteaders. When the two communities collide, unexpected friendships and dangerous enmities are born as everyone struggles with the bare essentials of life: love, nourishment, and a roof over one’s head. Rich, allusive, and unsentimental, T.C. Boyle’s ninth novel is a tour de force infused with the lyricism and take-no-prisoners storytelling for which he is justly famous.
With Drop City
, T. Coraghessan Boyle offers proof that he has become one of America's most prolific, gifted storytellers. Set in the 1970s, Boyle entertains readers with the denizens of "Drop City," a counterculture California commune that welcomes anyone wanting to live off the grid, use drugs, and practice free love. Boyle sublimely captures the sociology of its rebellious members, who doubt the sincerity or beliefs of newcomers, express some insecurity about nonconformity, and chastise outsiders while remaining oblivious to their own hypocrisy. Marco, Pan, Star, and other "cats" and "chicks" live hassle-free until dissention and cries of racism mount amid increasing run-ins with the local government (a young girl is raped, installation of a sewage system is mandated, a mother lets her toddlers drink LSD-laced juice). Seeking refuge, the citizens move north, to Alaska, to reinvent their utopia, but soon learn the natural environment is more unforgiving of a lackadaisical lifestyle.
Drop City is funny, evocative, and well-paced, shifting between the hippies and the Alaskan locals--primarily Sess and his new bride Pamela (a city dweller who arranged stays with several trappers over a few weeks to determine whom she would marry)--until the two cultures collide. Balanced between plot and character, Boyle excels at describing the physical world and his characters' interaction with it, whether portraying the harshness (or sheer beauty) of the Alaskan wilderness, the simple survival routines of its grizzled inhabitants, or the sounds wafting through Drop City: "the goats bleating to be milked or fed, the single sharp ringing note of a dog surprised by its own hunger, the regular slap of the screen door at the back of the house--and underneath it all, like the soundtrack to a movie, the dull hum of rock and roll leaking out the kitchen windows." Truly American in spirit, Drop City is a strong novel of freedom and those in pursuit of lives of liberty. --Michael Ferch