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The Book of Joe: A Novel Paperback – January 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After Joe Goffman's Bush Falls becomes a runaway bestseller, he never expects to go back to his small Connecticut hometown and face the outrage generated by the dark secrets his autobiographical novel reveals. But when his father suffers a life-threatening stroke, return the unhappy and unfulfilled Joe does, to meet head-on the antipathy waiting for him. Among the Bush Falls locals hellbent on revenge in this breezy sophomore effort by Tropper (Plan B) are deputy sheriff Mouse and ex-con Sean Tallon, both former members of the high school basketball team, as well as the wife of the basketball coach, who dumps a milk shake on Joe the first day he is back in town. Joe also crosses paths with his resentful older brother, Brad; Lucy, the sexy mother of a high school friend; and Carly, the only woman he ever truly loved. At its best, the novel skillfully illustrates the tenderness and difficulties of first love and friendship, exploring the aftermath of Joe's high school relationships with Carly and pals Sammy and Wayne. Fans of Tom Perrotta's sarcastic humor will appreciate Tropper's evocation of both the allure and hypocrisy of smalltown American life, particularly in drug- and alcohol-fueled episodes involving Joe's 19-year-old nephew, Jared, and a grown-up, AIDS-infected Wayne. Frequent pop culture references, particularly to Bruce Springsteen, help move things along briskly and by novel's end, Joe has learned to appreciate the virtues of Bush Falls and realize he's not perfect himself. Despite its charms, however, this boy-who-won't-grow-up novel relies too heavily on canned lines ("she's taking measurements of my soul through her eyes") and easy melodrama.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

After vilifying his hometown and its residents in his thinly veiled first novel, Joe Goffman got rich. The book was a hit, as was the movie that followed, but his new Mercedes and swank New York digs can't save him from having to go home again. After his father suffers a stroke, Joe returns to Bush Falls, Connecticut--and to the adolescence he's never really outgrown. With his father comatose, his childhood best friend dying of AIDS, the great love of his life intent on ignoring him, and the entire town furious at him for slandering them in his novel, Joe's got plenty to deal with. But in spite of his hero's serious problems, Tropper keeps Joe's narration self-deprecatingly funny throughout. The plot is sometimes annoyingly predictable and, sure, it gets a bit sappy, but most readers will be too amused by Tropper's fantastically funny dialogue to care. And as Joe struggles to reconcile himself to his past, the novel proves surprisingly poignant, even tender. A first-rate tale of a thirtysomething's belated coming-of-age. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (January 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385338104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385338103
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (254 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Tropper is the author of How to Talk to a Widower, Everything Changes, The Book of Joe, and Plan B. He lives with his family in Westchester, New York, where he teaches writing at Manhattanville College.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Kelly-Girl on October 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Why I love this book:

1. This book made me laugh. Out loud. A lot. Much to the chagrin of the poor gentleman I was sitting next to on the flight to San Fran. I couldn't stop giggling and doing the silent-shaking-while-trying-to-contain-my-laughter laugh.

2. Despite all the laughter, it's the first book in several years that had me in tears at the end. Major, embarrassing "please don't look at me" tears. So worth it. I think I actually hugged the book at the when I finished the last page.

3. It was well written and totally engaging from page one. It's one of those books you remember in pictures, like you saw it taking place right in front of you, instead of text.

I could go on and on, but I'm at work. Bottom line is, it's a great book, and I promptly bought his next one the same night I finished Book of Joe.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Howard Bolling on June 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Lately, the only books I write about are those that really beg me to write about them. Jonathan Tropper's The Book of Joe is one of those books.
It's a safe bet that most of us use our past to fuel our present. Whether dreaming about the glory days or subconsciously trying to atone for things we've done wrong, we somehow define ourselves by who we were as much as who we are. Joe Goffman is a poster child for that definition.
Joe, who has written a wildly successful work of fiction that pretty well trashed everybody in his small home town, is coerced into returning when his father, his only surviving parent, has a stroke. From Joe's less-than-warm reception through the rest of this engaging story, the events of the past provide a context for the searching, self-immolation and eventual re-discovery that comes from seeing if it's really possible to go home again, or if home belongs in the past, and is best left there.
More than a little wry humor wraps Joe's recollections of hormone-filled high school days with the patina of cynicism that intervening years supply. That coating helps to keep the book from descending into the dark, regretful tone that could have marred its enjoyability. You'll laugh; you'll cry (I did).
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on May 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A number of years ago, I was a teacher with student loans to pay, so I got a part time job at a deli. A former classmate, still wearing a jacket with his varsity basketball letter proudly showing for all to see, entered the store. The jacket no longer fit, his build had changed which age tends to do. I said hello and he gave me a look as if to say, "Why should I say hello to a pathetic loser like you?" He then made a comment about how little I accomplished since high school since I must only be slicing turkey breast and roast beef. I wanted to comment but wondered if it was worth it. Perhaps this is why I view Joe Goffman, the main character of THE BOOK OF JOE as almost heroic, as will anyone who felt excluded in high school.
In THE BOOK OF JOE, author Jonathan Tropper challenges the expression made famous by Thomas Wolfe's novel of the same name "You Can't Go Home Again." There is no question that Tropper is indebted to Wolfe, retelling the story from a 2004 perspective, albeit with a more sensuous flair than Wolfe's novel. The novel's hero, or anti-hero, depending on the reader's perspective, is named Joe Goffman. Goffman is a successful novelist who wrote a book set in his hometown and based on events of his senior year in high school. The residents of the town look rather buffoonish, naturally take exception to the book and feel humiliated when the book is made into a film. Perhaps the fact that residents in the town know that the tragic events depicted in Goffman's novel are true, it makes matters worse. Eventually Joe has to return to his hometown when his father becomes ill and his reunion with the town's residents, particularly the venerated basketball coach and his players who regard the coach as a god, is at times comical and at other times tragic.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By D. Mikels on July 29, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let's cut to the chase: Jonathan Tropper can flat out write. Whether he's going metaphorical, or descriptive, or setting you up to belly punch you with a zinger, this author has talent and a way with words that made my head spin. And Tropper's very witty, very moving, very effective prose is on full-scale display with his wonderful novel, THE BOOK OF JOE.

Joe Goffman fled the very turbulent times of his teenage life in a small Connecticut town, then got even by writing a novel that bashed anyone and everyone for all the chaos and mayhem he experienced. To Joe's complete surprise, the novel became a runaway bestseller, than a major motion picture. But here's the problem: His father suffers a stroke, and slips into a coma; Joe goes back, after seventeen years, to his hometown, and suddenly he is face-to-face with the very people he disparaged. From an estranged older brother, to a former high school bully still determined to torment, to a grizzled old basketball coach still an icon in town, to an old sweetheart whose heart remains broken, Joe grapples with the ghosts of his past, and comes to a realization that maybe the problem with his little hometown rests within himself--and not its residents.

This is a magnificent read, from its flowing prose to its compelling and definitive flashbacks of Joe's last year in Bush Falls High School. . .of his trials and tribulations with the three most important people in his life: Carly, Wayne, and Sammy. Tropper has absolutely triumphed in his ability to elicit the full gambit of emotions in the reader; I found myself laughing one moment, then wiping away a tear the next.
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