The Harder They Come

Ecco: HarperCollins. Mar. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780062349378. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062349392. F
OrangeReviewStarAn elderly California couple's vacation cruise is turned upside down when bandits attack their party at a Central American nature preserve. Former high school principal and Vietnam vet Sten Stensen reacts with unexpected fury when an armed thief approaches him, strangling him to death. While viewed as a hero back home, Sten's disturbed by the violence that's visited his life and will deal with more as the mental state of his emotionally troubled adult son, Adam, grows worse. A paranoid survivalist who fashions himself after 19th-century mountain man John Coulter, Adam has taken up with another disquieted soul, Sara, a local farrier and proponent of radical right-wing ideas. A fight with his parents after they sell his late grandmother's cabin, where he has been living, sends him spiraling downward. He retreats to a deep-woods bunker with his weapons where his shooting of a perceived "alien" will set off a massive manhunt.
VERDICT Inspired by a true story (and also echoing recent events in Pennsylvania), Boyle tellingly explores the anger, paranoia, and violence lurking in the shadowlands of the American psyche. A powerful and profoundly unsettling tale. [See Prepub Alert, 9/22/14.]
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