Cover Image: Blue Skies

Blue Skies

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

What an interesting story! TC Boyle masterfully writes about the issues of climate change and how they plague our world. The story focuses on one family in the not-too-distant future and how they experience the effect of climate change. Main character, Cat, struggles with an unfaithful boyfriend, whom she's trying to gain a serious commitment from. She decides that, since she's struggling in so many areas of her life, the answer is to purchase a snake and attempt to become an influencer with said snake. Her brother has been investigating and preaching about climate change for a long while and has convinced their mother to take steps to reverse the negative effects of climate change. 

Despite their efforts, they are still impacted by droughts, fires, and various tropical storms. They are only so much in control of their own lives. The characters were developed well and had interesting insight and lives. The experiences of these characters could be felt through the pages. It's a bit dark, and there are moments that are tough to read, but it is an interesting tale! If you're invested in climate change or climate fiction, and don't mind some dark humor paired with odd families and their dynamics, this might be the book for you!!
Was this review helpful?
I have been a fan of T.C. Boyle since I was in college in the '90s. I cannot think of a novel or story that he has written that I have not enjoyed. His writing is always razor sharp. I love his mix of humor, plot-driven narrative, and not shying away from social issues. This book was no exception. Here Boyle takes on climate change and it is a rousing--if at times depressing--success. I could not stop reading this one and have been suggesting it to my fellow readers since I finished it several months ago. Boyle just seems to have that indescribable something that keeps me happy as a reader and always coming back for more..
Was this review helpful?
This one looks at climate change. I was pretty bogged down reading this and Demon Copperhead at the same time. I had trouble relating to Cat. But it was interesting to see through the eyes of someone so different from myself. This one didn't hook me in the way that Tortilla Curtain did. But it was a good read and important material to get out there. I hope this format will make it more accessible to everyone. Good narrator.
Was this review helpful?
Boyle delves into the "World of Hiaasen", an absurd and rollicking romp through the eyes, beliefs, and the culture of a Floridian, who in today's world is just as crazy and who's worldview is just as convoluted as the real thing. Funny, charming, and nauseating all in one go.
Was this review helpful?
As a TC Boyle fan I was thrilled to receive this  ARC. Thank you Net Galley. This book did not disappoint -another classic. Climate change is raving California and Florida and in the midst of the chaos is a family who is grappling with love, science and dysfunction. There were moments where I held my breath, and one scene in particular will stay with me forever- let's just say, I will never be comfortable around snakes. This book worked its magic like only TC Boyle can do it,You think you are reading a family drama, but there are bigger questions about what we owe this planet, what we owe our families and what are we going to do?
I have recommended this book widely- do not miss it.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this novel...but I feel like enjoyed may not be the best word. It's bleak, really traumatic and depressing.  I thought the pacing was perfect, Boyle takes the time to set up everyone's situation and to let you really get to know the characters. I also loved how his characters are so imperfect, sometimes terrible, but I still really cared about what happened to them. I guess their flaws made them feel like real people to me, especially Cat. I felt like I was just waiting for the next terrible thing to happen throughout the whole book. Definitely check trigger warnings before going into this one, some of the TW will be spoilers though. Thanks so much to NetGalley and WW Norton for the ARC of Blue Skies!
Was this review helpful?
An excellent book about a family in California and Florida dealing with life traumas and climate traumas.
Was this review helpful?
Almost read like horror vs satire - very grim but I do think it’s reality with climate change. Surprised I haven’t heard much about this - maybe it’s hitting too close for some!
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company for letting me enjoy this early in exchange for my honest review. 

This book sounded very intriguing and the writing style was great but I never really latched onto the story itself. There was drama, comedic moments and a lot going on (cricket tacos and pet snakes) not to mention the overall themes surrounding global warming and the effects of climate change but for some reason, I couldn’t get into it.
Was this review helpful?
Global warming is real and T.C. Boyle highlights some of the unfortunate consequences in this seriocomic, climate fiction (cli-fi) novel. California is getting drier, Florida is getting wetter, and we observe the effects through the eyes of a family split between the coasts.


Ottilie and Frank raised their children, Cooper and Catherine (Cat), in Santa Barbara, California, a coastal city that lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Cooper, a Ph.D. student in entomology, now lives in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley; and Cat, a would-be influencer, lives in a beach house near St. Augustine, Florida, with her fiancé Todd.

Until Ottilie retired three years ago, she'd run her husband Frank's medical practice, overseeing everything, 'hiring and firing, the supply chain, billing, insurance, even rotating the dracaena and umbrella plants in the waiting room.' Ottilie's life is more relaxed these days, with laps in the pool every morning; socializing with her best friend Sylvie; cocktails, wine, and gourmet dinners; etc. Now, at the behest of her environmentalist son Cooper, Ottilie has taken up cricket farming - growing the insects in a home cricket reactor.

According to Cooper's mantra, this would produce an 'endless supply of high-fiber, low-fat protein' and would 'reduce the methane load produced by the earth's billion or so cattle and the felling of all those forests to provide pasture for them.' Ottilie prepares insect recipes like cricket chapulines and cricket tacos for her family, and even (clandestinely) serves disguised cricket dishes at a dinner party.

Unfortunately, home insect farms don't do much to attenuate climate change, and California has been experiencing a drought for four or five years. This results in water shortages, wildfires, and widespread death and destruction. The converse is true of Florida, where the constant humidity and frequent storms result in wetness and mold everywhere, and the ubiquitous odor of mold, rot, and decay.

Thus Ottilie, Frank, and Cooper have too little water; and Cat has too much.

The story is told in the rotating voices of Ottilie, Cooper and Cat, all of whose lives are (more or less) unstrung over the course of the story.

When Cat first moves to Florida with Todd, she's at something of a loose end. Todd is a brand ambassador for Bacardí rum, which involves hosting parties all over the world. Todd's frequent travels often leave Cat home alone, and though she picks up a little work here and there, Cat's ambition is to be an influencer. Thus Cat is trying to build up followers, but it's slow going, and she needs a 'hook.'

Cat is wandering around the local shopping district one afternoon, planning to drop into Bobo's for a mojito or two, when she spots a shop called 'Herps.' The reptile store has a huge, eye-catching snake in the window and Cat hits on the idea of buying a snake - a beautiful brown and gold serpent she can drape around her neck for social media pictures.

Cat ends up with a Burmese python named Willie II, and the photos of Cat and Willie II collect like after like. Cat thinks she's stumbled onto an identity that will elevate her as an influencer, 'the Snake Lady here to sell your line of tops, or jewelry or designer tees or whatever it was.' Todd isn't thrilled about having a snake in the house, but he lets it go, and the serpent is installed in a glass cage in the living room. Willie II plays an important role in the following chain of events.

In the meantime, things get worse and worse along Florida's beachfront. Because of the rainstorms, hurricanes, and tides, Cat can't trust her driveway or even the peninsula road, a whole section of which keeps washing out as fast as it's repaired. So Cat often leaves the car (Todd's showy Tesla) in Bobo's parking lot, and pilots a skiff to town.

Cat also has to deal with 'the mold creeping insidiously up the walls and the pilings rotting under the house.' Add to that the threat of termites, 'a kind of metastasizing arthropodal cancer that would devastate everything if you didn't get right on it', and Cat has troubles galore. Cat's lucky in one way, because her mother Ottilie is a force of nature. When Cat needs her mom, Ottilie hops on a plane and hurries to Florida, which isn't always easy with hurricanes and flight changes.

Ottilie is most often home in California though, where she struggles to be environmentally conscious and bemoans the increasingly dire drought. Ottilie starts to rear mealworms and to host beehives, while she severely limits water use. Eventually Ottilie limits herself to one three-minute shower a week, 'wet the hair, twist off the faucet, lather up, then turn it back on for a quick rinse....and forget the hair conditioner.' Ottilie also does her best to help her grown son Cooper, who has troubles of his own.

Cooper is doing his Ph.D. research on monarch butterflies, which are becoming increasingly scarce. This year, Cooper has seen precious few of the lepidopterans, 'which was beyond worrisome, considering they were reaching the point of no return, one more species sinking into the void.'

In fact all insects seem to be enduring a crisis, with a mass disappearance of many types. For Cooper, this signals 'the food chain imperiled, the world in collapse....doom atop doom.' Besides that, Cooper experiences personal troubles, one of which begins when he's helping his girlfriend Mari, a science nerd who studies ticks.

Cooper's fellow researcher Elytra, who does research on kissing bugs, does have a suggestion to curb climate change. Elytra posits, 'The solution [to global warming] is simple,' she says. 'You go up twelve miles in a fleet of jets and spray sulfuric acid, which combines with water vapor to form sulfate aerosols to reflect sunlight back into space.' But this notion infuriates Cooper, who calls the idea delusional.

I won't say more to avoid spoilers, but there's plenty of drama - and some comedy - in the book.

The story is compelling, and Boyle does a good job bringing home the (possibly) horrific consequences of human despoliation of the earth. Some of the main characters, however, are not especially likable, with a tendency to be selfish, and to dull their lives with alcohol. The story seems very realistic though, and I highly recommend the book to interested readers.

Thanks to Netgalley, T.C. Boyle, and W.W. Norton & Company for a copy of the manuscript.
Was this review helpful?
I'm a huge fan of T.C Boyle and this is one of his best book in years and will even say it's the best novel about the the environmental climate crisis to date. He tells a story about a family stuck in the crisis as if they are everyman. The main characters in the story are a brother and a sister. The sister Cat sort of goes through life drunk and not really paying attention to the word around her but just her own bubble. The brother is the opposite. he sees the dangers of climate change and works as a scientist trying to make the world a better place, The story takes off when Cat decides to buy a very large snake. It's kind of metaphor for how selfish humans are. I read this book in two days and found myself terrified, laughing out loud, and angry at the stupidity of humans. I hope this book gets a large audience because it's a great way for people to be  educated you on how we have to do better for our children.  A lot of recent climate change novels that are out there are slogs to get through and are not really going to get people to pick them up. This is not one of them. It's a perfect book club pick because it will really bring forth great discussions on our climate. Thank you to #netgalley and #liverlight for the ARC. Let's hope it sells millions of copies!!
Was this review helpful?
Sometime in the not so distant future, a family is dealing with the effects of climate change on each coast of the US. Ottilie and Frank live in California near their son, Cooper who is an entomologist tracking the wild swings in the insect population. Ottilie is dedicated to environmental protection and does her part by conserving water in a severe drought and learning to cook with crickets and bug flour to avoid meat. Meanwhile, in Florida, their daughter, Cat and her husband, Todd live in a beach house and are dealing with constant rain and rising tides. Feeling bored with Todd’s constant travels as part of his job with Bacardi Rum, Cat decides to buy a Burmese python as a pet and fashion statement in her quest to be a social media influencer. Unfortunately, as a result of climate change and some poor decisions, the family experiences some unusual tragedies that definitely give readers some food for thought about what could be in store for the future. As tensions rise in the extreme environments, each family member also deals with relationship challenges with their friends and significant others.
As a big fan of T.C. Boyle, I found this book to be one of his new classics. In his typical fashion, he takes on a current issue, exaggerates the storyline just enough to make it entertaining yet believable and gives us some quirky and well developed characters. This story is very engaging while taking on a very real concern. Boyle’s unique writing style somehow combines some humor in absurd situations with human tragedy and makes the story work. I anticipated Cat’s tragedy and hoped the book wouldn’t go there but that event (no spoilers) definitely demonstrated the consequences of poor decisions related to shallow and selfish priorities. This will surely be a turnoff for some readers but the overall message is very powerful.
#NetGalley #W.W.NortonandCompany-Liveright
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars

* Boyle’s prose has the most perfect flow. There is nothing forced or overwritten about it.
* Eco-discussion without losing the storyline and becoming didactic 
* Realistic blend of humor and tragedy and poignancy 
* Manages the current trend of multiple points of view brilliantly
* Excellent audiobook narration

* Well, bugs and snakes ;)
* Current trend of multiple points of view
* Bogs down a bit in the final 25%

Thank you to T. C. Boyle, Alyssa Bresnahan, Liveright, RB Media, and NetGalley for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This was such an interesting book. When Cat impulsively bought herself a snake at the very beginning, I questioned where the story was going (but in a good way!). I enjoyed the dark satire and relaxed tone that was present on each page. Even though the characters didn't always make the best decisions, I enjoyed finding out what events their actions would trigger. I also appreciated the environmental aspect; I hadn't ever considered turning to bugs as a sustainable food alternative, but this book certainly put that into my head.
Was this review helpful?
*3.5 stars rounded up. 

Let's pretend life is all blue skies and sunshine, shall we? Hah! Not when the realities of climate change make themselves felt. 

This is the story of one family's experiences of life in the near future. The mother, Ottilie, lives with her husband Frank in Santa Barbara, California. Her son Cooper is an entomologist who works in the next valley. He has been preaching about climate change for many years and has gotten his mother to start farming insects and substituting them for meat in their meals. Her daughter Catherine lives with her boyfriend in a Florida beach house he inherited. Cat's plan is to become an Instagram influencer with her pet python Willie II. 

The family quickly learns that their lives and plans are at the mercy of Mother Nature, be it a wedding, a funeral, or even going about a job. Drought and fires plague California while hurricanes and tropical storms inundate the Florida coast.

Although these characters were well-developed, I did not like them at all. Did I learn anything from their situations and problems? Ummm, no. Is that where Boyle's black humor comes in? I was glad the book ended on a seemingly upbeat note. One can hope, at any rate. But I don't think I'll be eating grasshoppers or crickets any time soon. 

I received an arc of this new novel from the author and publisher via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.
Was this review helpful?
“Blue Skies” by T.C. Boyle is an outstanding climate-change novel. The characters are well-developed, and this could have been just a good family drama, but the raw edge of nature’s backlash at mankind’s unmindful, disastrous attitudes and actions cuts a different path. The story centers on the family of Frank and Ottilie and their two grown children - Cooper (“bugboy”) the environmental-doomsday entomologist and his sister, Cat the climate-change-oblivious, striving influencer. Frank, Ottilie, and Cooper live in California where the increasing and merciless baked-in droughts, rainless skies, scorching heat, angry wildfires, and energy blackouts are becoming the norm. Cooper suffers a tick bite with life-altering consequences. Optimistic, determined, and idealistic Ottilie is doing her part to mitigate climate change by cultivating bug farms and cooking meatless, sustainable protein meals. This is not a dysfunctional family, far from it. But nature does not care.

Cat lives in coastal Florida with her fiancée, Todd, soon to be her husband. Life there is one of endless downpours, floods and mold, drenching heat, beachfront property destruction, invasive wildlife – all seeping into daily life. Cat’s remedy for this altered world is to impulsively buy a Burmese python as a fashion accessory. She actually has bought two pythons, but an ominous glimpse of nature’s brutality reduces the number to one. Cat and Todd’s memorable outdoor wedding in California’s scorching heat evolves into a nightmare of raging winds driving guests indoors and tents taking flight – followed by a power cut and an ash-choking approaching fire, thus abruptly ending the romantic celebration. Soon Cat and Todd have twins, and the stark, cringeworthy fact of a python in the house with baby twins sticks in the reader’s mind. What were Cat and Tod thinking? 

What follows is a perfectly created series of events where each may seem to be “the big event” we expect, such as Ottilie’s excruciating trip to be with Cat in Florida for the delivery. Nothing is easy, and then comes the Bug Apocalypse worldwide. Each event ticks up the expectation of calamity from climate change’s onslaught. But the writer’s discipline stacks these events as hurdles and moves on, while the characters strive to adapt and face obstacles, ironically without really planning for the near future’s even probable harsher reality. All the while, they seem to cope with the help of a lot of alcohol, supporting each other in their own way, and more alcohol. 

While reading “Blue Skies,” it was hard not to silently (or not) sing the song and savor the writer’s talent at this irony. He also knows how to focus while ramping up the stress level for the characters and the reader, without crashing. He is a superbly creative and disciplined writer. This was T.C. Boyle giving us an engrossing climate change novel that feels plausible, and it stands out.

While I have read many of his short story collections, this was my first novel by him. It will not be the last. I am grateful to Liveright Publishing (W.W. Norton & Company), NetGalley, and T.C. Boyle for the early access to this exceptional book. This opinion is all my own.
Was this review helpful?
Blue Skies is very dark climate fiction that packs a punch. It's very well-written, but also very very emotionally tough to read. This story contains individual and collective tragedies, all of which were set into motion long before they unfolded. Somehow, that makes them stand out all the more starkly. 

The story pops from the beginning, crackling with the danger born out of a young woman's need to have something, anything, extraordinary, in order to brighten her boring, lonely, predictable world. We sense immediately the foreshadowing: might she be getting more than she bargained for? The symbolism of Eve and the snake is hard to miss. Dangers are already gathering. The author quickly pivots to introduce us to other characters, but not to more comfortable subjects: just when we are relieved to take a break from the herpetological part of the story, the author hits us with the source of another common phobia. [Solidarity with those, who at this point, hum a few bars of Jim Stafford's 70's hit single.] 

At this early point in the story, dear reader, I got the distinct impression that Boyle was softening us up in the early rounds for a knockout punch later on. I was mostly right about this supposition, but only if in using the boxing ring analogy, we suddenly switched sports, yet still got punched in the face. You can see it coming, but somehow, can't get out of the way. 

It didn't take long to see the themes of the narrative: a shattering, a slow-moving catastrophe, one which you know is going to speed up soon, and without any additional warnings. 

The signs were all there. That we ignored them to our peril is hardly nature's fault. The deepening dysfunction in the lives of the characters is a perfect mirror to the dissolving ecological order on the planet.  

T.C. Boyle begins to paint a disturbingly bleak picture for us. But why shouldn't he? The human population has treated our shared ecosysyem as if it belonged only to us. We strip-mined, clear-cut, decimated, and caused mass extinctions. Not satisfied by rank consumption, we, humanity, have dumped trash in the ocean, allowed dangerous poisons into our rivers and streams, even carelessly introduced invasive species to wreck the balance of nature itself. 

For now, the world's wealthy are in the best position to continue to maintain a comfortable lifestyle (and to ignore growing numbers of climate refugees), but even for them, unprecedented horrors loom. No one will escape. There is no safe place to ride it out. All we can do right now is to slow it down, if we have the will to do so. 

As an aside, I wasn't quite sure of the author's purpose was in emphasizing that his characters regularly/continuously got sloshed. Perhaps it represents escapism, an active willingness to evade reality and responsibility, hiding one's head in the sand? Clearly, it does not represent healthy coping skills, though it's hard to say what would, in the face of constant dramatic threats in a rapidly changing world. Boyle reminds us that when things go wrong, the worst traits in people are amplified. Disaster does not, despite colloquial wisdom, bring people together in the spirit of cooperation, but rather accentuates the most annoying parts of our personalities, and drops us closer to a state of competitive survival. Just as individuals do not think enough about the potential unintended consequences of their actions, decision making by a collective has the exact same blind spot. If the solution to a complex problem is an easy one, it's probably both wrong and potentially exacerbating.

And the author is spot-on, when he says that calling someone a "rogue billionaire" is like saying "wet water." We cannot count on the weird imaginings of wealthy entrepreneurs or tech folks, to dodge Climate Catastrophe. Mitigation? maybe. Avoidance? no. 

T.C. Boyle, along with authors like VanderMeer, Nemisin, McConaghy, Powers, and Onyebuchi, are telling us our own story. The fact that it is a bit of a grim nightmare is kinda on us. We have crafted our own future. Novels like this bare our souls, and exhort us to hit the brakes, take a detour, do anything other than stay the course. 

Thank you to Liveright Publishing, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company, and #Netgalley, for providing an early copy of this novel for review.
Was this review helpful?
Intriguing novel that blends a climate change doomsday in Florida and California with complex and devastating family relationships. The characters are complex, interesting, and unlikeable.
Was this review helpful?
I was drawn in by the promise of dystopian humor. Such an odd combination should have been a warning. Blue Skies was well crafted and believable. Not just in predicting the world climate change could create, but regarding the nature of humanity, where life could become bleaker and more awful, but people would continue on with their lives. I suppose the absurd levels of escalating tragedy could be considered dark humor, but I was left with depression and disillusionment.

Thank you to Netgalley and WW Norton for the ARC!
Was this review helpful?
A dystopian novel about the inevitable and catastrophic result of climate change should not be funny or enjoyable. But this one really is.

Set either slightly in the future (a few years at most) or in a slightly exaggerated version of the present, Blue Skies tells the story of California residents Ottilie and Frank, and their wildly different children. Cooper is an entomologist who stayed in California. He warns people about climate change constantly, as well as encouraging actions of personal responsibility, like bug cultivation for protein at meals. He's focused on species preservation, and is a bit disdainful of his mother's middle class preoccupations with nice things (for instance, he scoffs at the idea of a wedding reception because it would over use the toilet tank, and encourage wasteful overconsumption of food).

Meanwhile, daughter Cat lives in Florida with her Bacardi rep fiancé, bored and boozing, trying to make it as an influencer. Their beachfront home is constantly under threat from the epically high tides and near-constant flooding thanks to the near-constant rain. Despite the very in your face sign that climate change is a happening, has happened, and will have dire consequences for them and their home, the two are content to focus on appearance and reputation.

This novel is either an intimate story of family dynamics or a satire of an entire nation/globe. Or both. It could be a cautionary tale, or it could be a "too late, now reap this future." Whatever the intention, it's witty and propulsive and the characters and complex and fully-realized and annoying and loveable. Read it.
Was this review helpful?