The Book of Joe
The riches you earn and rub in the face of all those who've wronged you in the past only go so far. Sooner or later in this small world, you will have to face those people again. This is the lesson Joe Goffman learns early in Jonathan Tropper's hilarious and heartbreaking novel THE BOOK OF JOE.
Goffman earned his right to be hated by penning a bestselling fiction named after his conservative hometown of Bush Falls, a once textile and retail outlet rich Connecticut town that has fallen on hard times. Behind the high moral standards, the churchgoing, the wealth, the cherished Cougars high school basketball team, romantic woodlands and falls, lurked the ugly truth that a once angry Joe Goffman embellished for his fiction debut, attracting hundreds of thousands of dollars from both New York publishing and Hollywood, leaving Joe with everything at the lonely top and nobody to talk to except his slick literary agent and a psychotic ex-girlfriend from the Big Apple.
Struggling with his hollow life in Manhattan and his failed attempt at postmodern fiction as a follow-up, Joe learns that his father Arthur is in a coma and he must return to the place, and the deep wounds, he exposed. Yet literary and financial successes have done little to massage the ego of Joe, who believes deep down that he has betrayed his family and friends and is undeserving of his posh apartment and Mercedes. So Joe refuses to defend himself back in Bush Falls when he faces fallen basketball star and brother Brad Goffman and his cheerleader wife Cindy, bully Sean Tallon, miscreant "Mouse" Muser, Coach Dugan, lusty Lucy Haber and a host of other bitter folks and sports fanatics who unwillingly graced the pages of Bush Falls.
More terrifying are the ghosts Joe encounters in memory, that of his suicidal mother and of his close friend Sammy Haber, both victims of depression and Bush Falls. There to carry Joe through the wilderness of remorse and embarrassment is old friend Wayne Hargrove, whose love affair with Sammy the summer before senior year cost Sammy his life, Bush Falls the championship, and Joe nearly everything. With Wayne harboring an even more devastating secret, the author steps into a Michael Chabon-stylized Themeland with his side-splitting humor, akin to WONDER BOYS and homosexual undertones reminiscent of THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY and THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH.
Yet Tropper distinguishes himself nicely as he revisits Joe's own 1980s at Bush Falls High. The author's engaging conversational tone and gift for character inflection make for some of THE BOOK OF JOE's funniest moments, especially during the tense moments at Mercy Hospital and on the roof of the old school. Witty lines such as "What [the novel] needs, I suspect, is to be taken out back and given the Old Yeller treatment," and "We sit quietly as the conversation limps off to wherever it is conversations go to die" pepper the novel and delight the many difficult scenes when Joe is feeling his worst.
As Bush Falls residents bombard Joe's childhood home with rejected copies of the novel, Joe realizes that what he dished out was just waiting to grow and come back to him one-hundredfold. Joe begins to find redemption only as he attempts to rekindle his love for high school sweetheart Carly Diamond, who stands by Joe as he deals with the most difficult challenge he must face --- understanding that forgiveness is the only way to heal the past.
Eloquent and meaningful, THE BOOK OF JOE is a worthwhile offering from an author who has the talent and market insight to pen a bestseller of his own.
Reviewed by Brandon M. Stickney on January 25, 2005
The Book of Joe
- Publication Date: January 25, 2005
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Bantam
- ISBN-10: 0385338104
- ISBN-13: 9780385338103