Outside Looking In

Harper. Apr. 2019. 400p. ISBN 9780062882981. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062883001. F
OrangeReviewStarAn old pro with more than 25 novels and short story collections under his belt, Boyle (The Terranauts) typically focuses on an event or moment in history and gives us his own take. This time around he sets his sight on Timothy Leary and his psychedelic "experiments" at Harvard in the early to mid-Sixties. Struggling psychology PhD student Fitzhugh Loney and wife Joanie are drawn to Leary and begin attending the Saturday night "sessions" in which Leary and his inner circle conduct "research" on the effects of psilocybin mushrooms. Soon, they graduate to LSD, then decamp to Mexico and later Millbrook, NY, to explore the psychedelic counterculture and the ideas of group think and communal living. The arrangement begins to take a toll on Fitz, Joanie, and their son, Corey. Things get weird, lives get ruined, and readers are along for all the highs and lows.
VERDICT While it may be hard to get behind many of the deeply flawed characters, there is much to learn and enjoy here, as Boyle takes us deep inside the lives of Leary and his convention-bashing acolytes, offering a brisk read that provides much food for thought. Boyle fans will enjoy. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/18.]
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