The Book of Joe – Jonathan Tropper (2004)

Another good and just plain enjoyable read from Tropper (see post about previous book here ). this time was an earlier work but it was still very good. Tropper has the enviable knack of making believable and likable characters who are very human in the choices that they make.

This novel features Joe Grossman, a best-selling author (his first and only novel so far) who returns to his boyhood home town which he hasn’t visited in 17 years. During that time, he has become estranged from his father and his brother and seriously annoyed most of the town’s inhabitants by writing a thinly-veiled story about them in an unflattering manner.

The illness and then death of Joe’s father is the catalyst for Joe’s homecoming which also triggers a cascade of related stories related to his teenaged years and departure: a long lost girlfriend, severed friendships, loyalty, forgiveness and the role of memory. This list makes the plot sound a bit contrived (“local boy makes good, but at what cost?”), but despite a bit of plot predictability, the story moves forward with enough twists to keep the pages turning.

Sometimes you just want a good solid flowing reading experience and this was just that. It was an interesting contrast to the verbose wordiness of the Victorians and a pleasant change to have a male protagonist.

 I will definitely be reading more of Tropper’s work at some point. This title was actually a serendipitous find as I was at the library (I know – shocker) looking for an Anne Tyler book (another good solid U.S. author) so since their last names are quite close to each other, I just came across it. A lucky find for this reader.

I also finished up a Project Gutenberg reading of “The Misses Mallet” by E. H. Young (1922). Some lovely descriptions, but a pretty non-descript plot of young women getting married/not getting married sort of thing. This is not thought to be Young’s best work, so perhaps her other books are better or different. Will have to see. They are not available on-line, so will have to make more of an effort to find those suckers.

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