- American West, Communal Living, Community, Hippie Culture, Protest, Relationships, Self-organization, Subculture
- Tom Coraghessan Boyle
- PENGUIN Group (USA) Inc.
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, chastise outsiders while
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
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 the pursuit of liberty