<i>In The Course of Human Events</i> is more of a character study than a novel that follows a steady plot. Not that it doesn't have a linear plot, it has a very good one. It follows the life of Clyde Twitty who has been engulfed by the ass end of the Great Recession. He lost his job. one that wasn't very promising to begin with, and sees no real future for himself. He falls under the influence of a charismatic martial art expert who strives on conspiracy theories and the kind of racial hatred that might attract someone like Clyde who feels he is forgotten and powerful in modern society. He becomes attracted to the ideas of Jay, which is egged on by more than a little interest in Jay's strong minded teen daughter Tina. Clyde becomes so immersed in Jay's true believer of a family that he is willing to endure abuse, give up his own family, and perhaps even commit himself to act of violence and racial hatred himself.
It is this intimate look at Clyde and how he becomes so entrenched in what most of us would call a self-destructive life style that makes this book so interesting. I would like to say Clyde is a far-fetched fictional set-up but I've seen too many young men and women dragged into this type of bigotry and extremism to know Mike Harvkey's terrifying and fascinatingly depressive novel is not that far from reality. Clyde's soon-to-be mentor is also a grim but realistic description of a man who own beliefs are destructive to himself and all who follows him. I enjoyed this novel as a study in extremism and a primer on how a bright but alienated young man can easily be led into fanaticism and bigotry.
What I really like about this novel though is how Clyde comes to life in the author's capable hands. Even while becoming brain-washed into Jay's cultish family, Clyde has connections with the outside world that could help him gain balance: His old school buddy Troy, his uncle, a would be girl friend, and most importantly, a Mexican co-worker who, with all his faults, give Clyde questions about his assumptions of others who are not like him. While I find the ideas that Clyde is embracing repugnant, Clyde himself remains sympathetic. We want to think Clyde can escape Jay's control. Yet Clyde is falling deep into the socio-political rabbit hole that Jay has led him to and the results are what makes this book a tense page-turner. For those who like their reads realistic and not afraid of down-beat themes, I would give this a high recommendation.