WILD CHILD by T.C. Boyle

WILD CHILD

KIRKUS REVIEW

The usual darkly comic cautionary tales, but also some bracingly and impressively new works from the prolific author (The Women, 2009, etc.).

Many of these 13 short stories echo a bit too closely Boyle’s numerous earlier envisionings of human greed and stupidity, and the harsh ways in which nature outwits and punishes us all. In “La Conchita,” the delivery of a human liver destined for transplant is compromised by an epic California mudslide. How to vote on a resolution to protect indigenous wildlife (“Question 62”) assumes new meaning for a gentle young widow when a mountain lion begins patrolling her neighborhood. A high-school biology teacher learns just how impassioned the debate over evolution vs. creationism has become (“Bulletproof”); a lonely widower acquires an unconventional pet, incurring the interference of “Thirteen Hundred Rats”; and a veteran babysitter indulges the wishes of a childless rich couple who replace their late Afghan hound with a ridiculously expensive cloned canine (“Admiral”). Boyle nods off elsewhere, in the limp tale of a Botoxed beauty’s unrequited love for her sleek surgeon (“Hands On”), and in depictions of neighborhood enmity exacerbated by wildfires (“Ash Monday”) and drug-addicted vocalists pretending to rediscover their humanity while recording a Christmas novelty tune (“Three Quarters of the Way to Hell”). But he’s at his best in an icy portrayal of a contemptible new dad who exploits his baby daughter to enable his shiftlessness (“The Lie”), and in “Sin Dolor,” the tale of a boy born unable to feel pain and victimized by both his greedy father and the amoral physician who sees only material for a revolutionary case study. Better still is the title novella, a rich reimagining of the story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron, a feral innocent who deserves a better fate than forced integration into “civilization,” which inevitably destroys him.

With each book Boyle becomes a more adventurous and interesting writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-670-02142-0
Page count: 306pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2009




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