During our discussion of When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle, the words most often used were — too much detail; and the majority of those present didn’t seem to care for the book. One member mentioned that in other book clubs, members have rated the books they read, and that on a scale of 1 to 4, she would have rated it a two. Another member wished she had researched a little more about the islands, so we watched a short National Parks Service video about bringing the island of Santa Cruz back into balance, which we all agreed was exactly the kind of video that the antagonist in the story would have called propaganda! At least one member really liked the book, though, especially because of the great detail. Even as we discussed how unlikable the environmentalist Dave LaJoy was, one member felt that he was the character that kept the book interesting. A necessary plot device.
We nostalgically discussed farms, animal rights, and meat. Do animals who have never known the outdoors and freedom know the difference? The unknown dangers of chemicals, from DDT to penicillin tooth paste, cigarettes to the next wonder drug. One member brought in a recent article from the Las Vegas Review Journal about the over abundance of Ravens and the damage they cause, which directly relates to the ravenous scavengers in the book. The story certainly has topical appeal. We all agreed that the significance of the title, When the Killing’s Done, is that the killing is never done.
I was interested in the beauty of the language Boyle used, which often stood out to me almost as strikingly as that used by Daniel Woodrell in Winter’s Bone; and one member agreed that you could open the book up to most any page and find a beautifully descriptive passage. But even as the group raved about the descriptions in Winter’s Bone, Boyle’s language barely registered in our discussion. One member described reading the book as simply laborious. Perhaps, the language gets lost in the detail.
Other books mentioned during our discussion: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver and Ape House by Sara Gruen. So many books, so little time! Our March discussion will be Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler. The group seemed excited by the choice. I wonder how our expectations will inform our reading? Check back next month.
I had much the same reaction as your book club. I loved the descriptions but got bogged down in detail. I did enjoy the close, realistic details when they were about animals and nature, less so when they were about the characters interactions and social lives. I found Rita very interesting because of her complete life change. Bold move. Boyle is a master at detail, at knowing the intricacies of his subject, and he attacks important topics. He’s an important author of our time, and worth attention, even if some of the reading is slow go. I like Barbara Kingsolver and since one of your members mentioned Flight Behavior, I’ll check out that book. Gruen’s Ape House, too. Thanks for the overview of your club’s reaction. and the mention of other works. Good information.
I appreciate the input about the book. I like the idea of a continuing discussion. One of the benefits of an on-line journal can be to keep the discussion and knowledge evolving — as long as it is respectful!