To say that Bill Gaston's The Good Body
is hilarious is to miss the profound forest for the mesmerizing trees. Oh, The Good Body
will split you with laughter (how could a story of an aging semi-pro hockey player cheating his way into a graduate creative writing program not?), but the comedy is in fact another aspect of the novel's intimate understanding of its characters. It is this closeness that wires The Good Body
with an electric psychology alternately hilarious, insightful, affirming, and terrifying.
None of Bob Bonaduce's career of hockey violence prepares him for the crushing blow he receives in a doctor's office after one foot doesn't stop tingling and his hands suddenly go clumsy. Sent into the boards by the body that has given him a career, a broken marriage, and the purest grace he has ever known, Bonaduce decides to reintroduce himself to his estranged son. What better way to do that than to play hockey on the same varsity team? Life on the road has given him plenty of time to read. He's tried some writing. If he needs to be a student to play with his son, isn't creative writing really the thing? Application portfolio? Oh, Bonaduce can get around that defense.
Fellow players, housemates, ex-lovers, and classmates all meet Gaston's unflinching honesty, alternately kissed by sympathy or slashed by damning eyes. With Gaston's uniquely polymorphous talent, humor, insight, sex, and tragedy all are marks of a voice that is so comforting for the wounds it both opens and heals. --Darryl Whetter
From Publishers Weekly
Although a quick synopsis of Canadian writer Gaston's American debut might sound maudlin--a rootless minor-league hockey player contracts multiple sclerosis and goes home to make peace with the family he's neglected for years--the novel itself is not. Told in finely calibrated prose that captures not only the agonizing eloquence of a body betraying its tenant but the rough-edged mumble of a professional athlete's voice, the novel walks a fine line with certainty and grace. Forty-year-old Bobby Bonaduce keeps mum about his illness, deciding not to retire from hockey in the U.S. and return to Fredericton, Canada, hoping to score sympathy points with Leah Miller, the wife he left 10 years before but never divorced, and Jason, his 20-year-old son with whom he exchanges about four letters every two years. Instead, he enrolls as a graduate student in English at the University of New Brunswick in order to play hockey on his son's team. Neither classes nor family reconciliation go as smoothly as Bobby hopes, and the ensuing mix of hilarity and heartbreak gives the book its sweet, gritty signature. The prodigal student rents a room from a group of young students, becoming close friends with one of them--a wry young woman named Margaret--and, in a clever twist, with Oscar, Leah's current lover. Although the narration dips into a few other characters' minds, Bobby is the star of this show; he confronts his dilemmas with the hopefulness of a child and the bravado of an oncoming truck. A seamless tone (one that isn't "afraid to sing it into sweet words"), a cast of warm, genuine characters and a confluence of unlikely but wholly believable events bring this modern hero to life.
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