The Book of Joe…

…is a novel that I’m reading.I suspect that title is a take on The Book of Job from the bible. That is if there is a Book of Job in the bible. Is there? Or is there just a story about Job? I don’t know. I’m not a bible scholar. Just a Catholic. In any case, the guy in the book gets shit on a lot. Although unlike Job, it is not entirely without reason.

Joe is a 34-year-old author who, when he learns that his father has had a stroke and fallen into a coma, returns to his home town of Bush Falls after being away for some 17 years. And the kicker is, he’s not really welcome there because he wrote a bestselling novel about said hometown in which just about everyone ends up looking pretty bad, or so they think anyway.

I can really identify with the main character. I mean, I was once 34. And my dad had a stroke during open-heart surgery. True, he didn’t fall into a coma but he was pretty dazed and confused there for awhile. He kind of still is in a way. Also, I’ve always wanted to write a novel that would piss off my friends and family, but so far I’ve only managed to do the latter. Not entirely mind you but my life isn’t over yet, so…

The Book of Joe (for some reason retitled as just Bush Falls, according to amazon.com) is by Jonathan Tropper and I’d classify it as a GenX novel. I think that whole coming back home after fleeing and staying away for a long time has become something of a GenX staple. Or if it’s not, it’s on it’s way. Also, it’s funny. Joe is quite sarcastic, which gets him into trouble more than a few times. And there are plenty of pop culture references. And author is definitely a member, born in 1970. So…

But this novel isn’t just funny. It can also and grim and serious. In fact, it is just such a passage with which I identify most:

Loneliness is the theme, and I play it like a symphony, in endless variations. I’ve lived more than a third of my life, and am more alone now than I’ve ever been. You’re supposed to make your way through life becoming more substantial as you go, the nucleus of your own little universe, your  orbit overlapping the orbits of others. Instead, I’ve shed all those who cared about me like a snakeskin, slithering angrily into my small solitary hole.

Whether it is exactly true or not, that is precisely how I feel these days.

Tropper has written several novels. I’m looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

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