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A Friend of the Earth

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  3,045 ratings  ·  283 reviews
One of LitHub's "365 Books to Start Your Climate Change Library"

Originally published in 2000, T. C. Boyle's prescient novel about global warming and ecological collapse

It is the year 2025. Global warming is a reality. The biosphere has collapsed and most mammals--not to mention fish, birds, and frogs--are extinct. Tyrone Tierwater is eking out a bleak living in southern C
Paperback, 349 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published September 11th 2000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
 photo 461f7562-7d55-4e2e-ba85-483c7c478e56_zps0b4513a4.jpg

When I lived in Arizona in the late 1980s there was an environmental group called Earth First! that was creating a lot of excitement on campus. Edward Abbey was teaching at the University of Arizona and everyone was reading his book called The Monkey Wrench Gang. Earth First! advocated using some of the tactics that Abbey described in his book. All was fun and good until the FBI busted down Dave Foreman's (the most vocal leader of Earth First!)door in the middle of the night, with black heli
Nancy Oakes
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really, really enjoyed this novel and can easily recommend it. You can check out the long version or stay here for a shorter one.

A Friend of the Earth is quite different from many environmentally- or eco-based novels I've read. While some of the normal dystopian scenarios are in place, and the author in his own way lets his readers know that there is little to no hope for the future, it also makes you laugh as Mr. Boyle puts irony ahead of heavy-handedness or preaching -- since, as the main c
Todd Crawshaw
Dec 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
There is a story behind why I chose to review A Friend of the Earth. In 2001, I bought the novel and could not get past the first few pages. I tried again and again. No go. So I dropped it in a box to be forgotten but not trashed. Roughly a year later I was rummaging around for a book to read and pulled it out. What the hell, I thought. I'll give it another try. The planets had aligned, apparently (or more likely this time I was mentally receptive) and, as with all his previous books, I immediat ...more
Geoff Wyss
May 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
All I could manage of this one was 100 pages. I wanted to like it--its premise of near-future ecological collapse feels relevant and laudable--but the prose is so lazily executed that it begins to feel like an insult. The book is full of cheap narrative gambits and inexact metaphors and faux-ominous filler of this sort: "He doesn't like this. He doesn't like it at all." Or, much worse: "Because I'm bored. Because I've got nothing to lose. Because I know I can put the brakes on if I have to. Roll ...more
Robert Case
Nov 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the environmental movement
The fate of the earth is not the issue for main character and narrator, Tyrone O'Shaughnessy Tierwater. He knows that it's doomed. But, so does the reader. The post-apocalyptic opening chapter is set in 2025 California. Nature is reclaiming the planet. Weather related disasters rage, wreaking havoc on the remaining lifeforms and infrastructure. Ty is the "last man standing" of a class of radical environmentalists from the "Earth Forever" movement. (It is a carbon copy of a 1980's environmental m ...more
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
"Because to be a friend of the earth, you have to be an enemy of the people."

This book is set in the near future, where we did not manage to stop climate change. An "eco-nut", who is now caring for a few animals that are not yet extinct, is confronted with his past.

The story switches from past to present, slowly giving away what happened to the main character Ty, and his family. Ty is an interesting character, but it was hard to root for him every now and then.

Although the premise of the story
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
You can always rely on T.C. Boyle for an entertaining read. Here, our future (the year 2025) is described in the bleakest (and at times depressing) terms: Due to our destruction of the environment, people are suffering from extreme weather conditions. At the moment, a neverending rainstorm rages for months, which makes normal living difficult. Most animals and plants are extinct, all there is to drink is sake, and the hero of the story, Ty Tierwater, has a job looking after the animals in the pr ...more
Norris Thomlinson
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This could be a fun read for tree huggers and tree spikers alike. In a narrative split between the climate battered world of 2025 and life as a circa 1990 ecosaboteur, environmental doom meets righteously taking on the system. Supporters of Deep Green Resistance, Earth First!, the Earth Liberation Front, or Stop Fossil Fuels are reminded of the climate chaos and mass extinction we’re fighting to head off, and can vicariously (and safely) enjoy the thrill of underground, illegal tactics against a ...more
Christopher Wright
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Originally published in 2000, A Friend of the Earth by T. C. Boyle is a gripping, humorous and emotional novel which charts the life of committed eco-activist Ty Tierwater and his battles to confront humanity’s destruction of nature. I first encountered an excerpt from this book several years ago when reading the anthology I’m With The Bears: Short Stories From a Damaged Planet. The chapter ‘The Siskiyou, July 1989’ was something of a revelation for me then, a powerful, slow-reveal vignette in w ...more
Steev Hise
May 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Steev by: guy mcpherson
Once again I've encountered a book that is about issues I'm extremely interested in and concerned with, but the formal characteristics of the writing are problematic to me. I'd never considered reading any of T.C. Boyle's work, though I'd heard his name quite a bit. Then I heard about this book and its subject: a washed-up old environmental activist trying to survive in a 2025 world ravaged by the effects of the global climate change he had been trying to fight in his youth. I eagerly snapped up ...more
Jade Lopert
Oct 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
This is one of the books that makes me feel very middle of the road. It's brilliant at points. Other points it's just a whole lot of environmentalist propaganda. Sometimes so heavy handed that it takes an earth loving hippie like me and hits me over the head with it so hard that it's hard to enjoy the actual story.
The interesting thing here is not that world is going to hell in a hand basket. Any child of the 80s and 90s well knows that rhetoric and how it plays out is almost exactly like any nu
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Friend of the Earth is another great effort from Boyle, one of my favorite contemporary writers. Boyle has a tremendous gift; the words just flow off the pages. With his trademark dark humor, Boyle spins the tale of Ty Tierwater, who has spent his life defending the earth, to no avail. It’s 2025, and Ty is in California, tending to an animal menagerie, owned and funded by Mac Pulvis, a retired pop star. Global warming and climate change have come true; Ty endures monsoons followed by 130 tempe ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment, fiction
This book successfully uses fiction as social commentary on the environmental history and politics of America. The writing is smooth and the imagery evocative - the crisp and cool mountain air of the sierra nevada forests at the end of the last century in stark contrast to what the future in 2025 could very likely be: charred, dusty and yet filled with violent storms and extreme weather, a world largely bereft of wildlife, where swathes of forests lie destroyed. Indeed, Boyle portrays a bleak, s ...more
Patty Garland
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was one of the harder post-climate change books I've read in a while. The outrageous characters. The ridiculous events. The tension between the next catastrophe and the unending pall of despair. I didn't want to watch the train wreck, but I couldn't stop either.

I haven't picked up a book since. Perhaps it was bad timing. I happened to read this while living through a week of smoke from three wildfires raging North, South and East of our area. And one of the hottest summers on record. And a
Eric Plunkett
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I think it's time to admit that I will never finish this book. I don't know what it is: at some point I read a Boyle story, perhaps in Harper's, and somehow developed the idea that I liked his writing and wanted to read more. This is my second Boyle novel, though, and I just can't be bothered to finish it, so maybe I like it less than I thought. There's not really even anything wrong with it, I just find that I fundamentally don't care, which is hardly a ringing endorsement for a book.
Kenny Leck
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it
"I've never believed in vegetarianism myself, except as an ecological principle - obviously, you can feed a whole lot more people on rice or grain than you can on a feed-intenstive animal like a steer, and, further, as everyone alive today knows, it was McDonald's and Burger King and their ilk that denuded the rain forests to provide range for yet more cows, but, still, I don't make a religion of it. Meat isn't the problem, people are."
* Ty Tierwater
Cathy Diamond
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Boyle is a wonderful writer. The hero here is a bawdy and impassioned environmentalist who has become radical in thought and action. His love of the earth and hate of corrupt logging and other companies that threaten the pristine beauty of his home in California up to Oregon causes him, his wife and daughter to extreme acts of courage and tenacity. Set in 2025 with half the book flashing back to the chronicling of his deeds and misdeeds as a 'tree hugger' in the late 80's(written in 2000) the bo ...more
Daren Kearl
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Written in 2000 this novel,set before and after the full effects of climate change, is even more of the moment. It is a book for the Extinction Rebellion age.
It’s pretty down beat and dark, however, as the focus is on individual action with no mention of any national or international attempts to halt environmental catastrophe. Nature is not tame and will not do what we want it to, even if we are trying to make things right.
Mark Buchignani
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: t-c-boyle
T.C. Boyle is a great storyteller. Things happen, narrative moves, conclusions develop – and he is entertaining. But here, in A Friend of the Earth, he takes a meandering path and imposes a leisurely pace, one in which there are many more paragraphs than actions, and the tale being told develops gradually, while overcoming extended weather and old-age soliloquies – it rains all the time; it rains hard; it floods highly, thoroughly. Yup; understood. But then it rains on the rain, and joints crack ...more
James Hill
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
from James:

Most dystopia fiction seems so far removed from our common, everyday world that it’s scary only in the abstract. A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle, however, seems too real…and thusly, depressing. The book was published in 2000, but the story alternates between 1989 and 2025. It tells the story of Ty Tierwater and his escapades as a father, husband, and eco-crusader.

I first read the book when it was published and remember thinking: wow, climate change will never be that bad. I liked
Mark Rigney
Mar 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I admire Boyle's short stories very much, and have read a wide array of them over the years, but this is my first foray into his novels. My response? This is pedal-to-the-metal stuff, furious metaphors flying in all directions. And no wonder. Leading man Ty Tierwater is the last of the angry old men, and he's our first-person narrator. Boyle is up to the task of setting down the the fire in Tierwater's aging pot-belly, but this title falls into the camp of "narratives that sustain their drama by ...more
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people aren't worried about the environment
Shelves: booksofthepast
TC Boyle has long been one of the authors I most appreciate. This book only expanded my appreciation for him. It's the tale of an environmentalist who has reached his "young old age" and is exhausted from struggling against the degradation of the earth's environment and the tragedies of his personal life, which include the situation with the ex-wife he still loves but can't stop hating (haven't we all felt that way?). Set in the year 2025 (I think), it's a hilarious, frightening tale that warns ...more
Aug 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
TC Boyle is a fine writer, and I had no idea when I picked up this book where it would take me. The plot had me questioning my views on parenting, environmentalism, global warming and man's place in the universe before I was finished. In addition, there were two or three times the plot had me squirming uncomfortably as I realized the story was taking me places emotionally I didn't want to go, such as facing the loss of a child (I hope I never have to). To get to the end of the story I had to pus ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I saw Boyle on a talk show so I ordered this off of ABDBOOKS for $1. That was one well spent buck. Set about 20 years in the future Boyle manages to spin social and environmental concerns into something that is never ham handed or preachy but just breathtaking. The writer knows and loves his characters like Tye who starts out an environmentalist and winds up an eco-terrorist. I think the reason he does not come of as smug or preachy is he really believes it is game over. Some new political party ...more
Geoffrey Benn
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book by T.C. Boyle that I’ve read, and it was fantastic. The book follows Tyrone Tierwater as both a 1990s radical environmentalist/eco-terrorist, and as the keeper of a menagerie of exotic, nearly extinct animals for a movie star in 2025 – after global warming has destroyed much of the natural world through violent weather and drought. The 1990 sections follow the increasing extremism and anger of Tierwater, which leads to him being jailed, the death of his daughter, and the e ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have read and enjoyed much of T.C. Boyle's work, but this novel is one of his lesser accomplishments. I was nearly halfway through the book before the plot really started to take off, and the protagonist never really managed to grab me. While I do strongly believe that global climate change is real, that human activity is the cause, and that we need to take drastic action to curtail the damage, his vision of a future total environmental collapse seems rather shrill. I strongly recommend most o ...more
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Hmmm, sorry not sure, although I feel I should appreciate it, it is the story of a 1970s hippy eco fighter reminiscing over what happened in 1970s now he is in his 70s, although this is 2025 and they live longer. Strange book, he seems to regret some of what was done in the name of the eco warriors endangering the people taking part but then again he is philosophical about the world he now lives in as an animal keeper, endangered species and wierd weather. That is all I got from the book. Now I ...more
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
Not quite as good (or nearly as subtle) as The Tortilla Curtain, "AFOTE" stills scores high as a caustic and often hilarious read, with a little earth musing thrown in for good measure.

The tone is drenched in a kind of cranked-up sarcasm and all of the characters are fair game. Some readers might find all the snide asides distracting, to be sure, but I thoroughly enjoyed the cutting humor in this one.

Smart and funny, what else do you want?
Jul 16, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a little bit of a struggle for me to get through. I enjoy T.C. Boyle books but this one is dark - environmental destruction as a result of global warming and the greenhouse effect, the climate has changed, and, accordingly, biodiversity is a thing of the past. Many animal species are extinct, etc. It was a beautifully written but depressing book. It is the story of Tyrone Tierwater, a former environmentalist who is now living on a rock stars estate and taking care of endangered animal c ...more
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T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published seventeen novels and eleven collections of short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World's End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York. He is married with three children. Boyle has been a Distinguished Professor of English at the ...more

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