Chosen as a Book of the Year 2019 by the Herald
It is Harvard in the early 1960s. Just off campus, Dr Timothy Leary plays host for his PhD students, laying on a spread of cocktails, pizza and LSD. Among the guests is Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology student, and his librarian wife Joanie. Married young, and both diligently and unglamorously toiling to support their son, they are not the sort of people one would expect to be seduced by the nascent drug culture. But their nights on LSD prove so extraordinary – so revelatory, so earth-shattering, so downright seductive – that Fitzhugh and Joanie are soon captive to the whims of the charismatic and subversive Dr Tim.
Follow Fitzhugh and Joanie on their quest for transcendence, as sultry Mexican nights at Hotel Catalina give way to a ramshackle mansion in upstate New York, where thirty devotees – students, wives and children – play out the final act of a terrible, beautiful experiment.
Join us, won’t you? It’s going to be one hell of a trip.
“A pitch-dark sex comedy ” – Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail
“The undisputed master … Boyle is brilliant at charting the currents of euphoria and idealism around Leary, the phantasmagorical effects of LSD, and Fitz’s eventual slide into self-destruction. Boyle blurs the boundaries between the fact and fiction, adding a novelistic shimmer and richness to what the histories already tell us … A roller-coaster morality tale of the road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom” – Mick Brown, Daily Telegraph
“Boyle renders the hypnotic, quasi-academic mood of the commune skilfully, capturing the participants’ initial belief that this was a serious spiritual quest. This moment in the mid-Sixties before the bonkers hippy movement of the west coast took over the counter-culture from the intellectuals from the east, is fascinating … As the story of one man’s descent into madness, and the folly of communal living and doing drugs for breakfast it’s a thrilling read” – The Times
“A virtuoso performance by Boyle – joyous, mad-scientist slapstick, frightening, profound and even erotic” – Herald
“By far and away one of the most inventive, adventurous and accomplished fiction writers in the US today … A mesmerising storyteller” – Lionel Shriver,
“Boyle is a writer who chooses a large canvas and fills it to the edges” – Barbara Kingsolver,
“A virtuoso craftsman” – Annie Proulx,
“Funny, but not always in a way you can laugh at. Boyle’s dissections are far too accurate. One moment you’re watching the antics of a narcissistic cast; the next you’re finding it all heartbreakingly human” – M John Harrison,
“You don’t feel cheated, reading Boyle – while the head knows there’s manipulation and artifice, the heart thumps” – Observer
“Boyle has a talent for describing events we may never experience with an arresting matter-of-factness. There is a thrill to this, and to not knowing where he will take us next” – Chris Power, Guardian
“A sort of Frank Zappa of American letters … Like the Beat writers before him, Boyle documents American life in the underbelly. Boyle is incapable of writing a boring sentence … he is a master of the short story form” – Financial Times
“Thomas Coraghessan Boyle isn’t the first writer to probe the American malaise, but he makes a two-fisted, Technicolor job of it” – Sunday Times
“Masterful” – Philip Womack, Daily Telegraph
“Brilliant … His characters are portrayed with sympathy and internal complexity, even if they’re still crazy” – New Statesman
“One of our finest chroniclers … Boyle is always going outside himself, jumping into foreign skins … The best of Boyle’s novels warn against the varieties of human extremism: our problems may be grave, he often says, but we make them worse by acting on our unexamined impulses and convictions” – Independent