I just flipped the last page of The Book of Joe. It’s rare that I finish a book and immediately want to write how I feel about it; when that happens, I know it’s because I loved it.
There’s something very appealing about Tropper’s writing style. (I’ve come to learn that some people hate it and, since I’m here to judge [books], them haters can go suck it). It’s brash, yet very calculated. I read This Is Where I Leave You a couple of years ago and was hooked by its tragic subject matter, the unabashed sex scenes, the slapstick humor, the family feuds, the drama of it all. It read like a movie and, unsurprisingly, they’re making it one. But I digress.
In both novels, the protagonists are immature. They’re annoyingly self-centered and self-pitying men, heavily distracted by sexual conquests and other pubescent things. They’re also both damaged goods, incredibly lonely, and disconnected from their families.
The Book of Joe tells the story of Joe Goffman and his misadventures in his small hometown of Bush Falls, Connecticut, via woven, parallel perspectives. One storyline is told through excerpts of the scathing autobiographical novel Joe wrote about his hometown and the scandals of the people within it, titled Bush Falls. The other narrative is his experience returning to Bush Falls (post-Bush Falls) when he finds out his father has slipped into a coma and is unlikely to recover.
Long story short: the citizens of Bush Falls are less than happy to see him drive up in his flashy, new Mercedes.
Joe’s return becomes a journey of reflection, as he faces the demons of his past head-on. Within his first few hours in Bush Falls, he ends up with a milkshake thrown in his face. The public humiliation gets more intense as the novel progresses, each wronged character from his adolescence taking a long-awaited shot at the smug Joe Goffman.
Joe begins to recognize that despite his fame and fortune, he has very little going for him. His relationships are shallow at best and, despite an attitude that suggests otherwise, he knows next to nothing about the world. It isn’t until he returns to Bush Falls and is faced with the fact that he is hated by everyone in town that he realizes how empty his life really is. Running away to NYC to become a celebrated writer of a tell-all “fictional” book isn’t the picture of success; it is merely running away.
He begins to work towards remedying the relationships he abandoned to his past – with his remaining family, with Carly, the girl he once loved, and with his best friend from high school, Wayne.
There’s a lot more going on here that I won’t divulge because it really is worth a read, but I will say this: I laughed, I cringed, I cried. I don’t know what else I could want from a novel.
Book: The Book of Joe
Author: Jonathan Tropper
Type: Holy shit, Jonathan Tropper, you did it again.
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