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on 5 August 2007
Bush Falls (also released as The Book Of Joe, in case you can't find it under the UK title) is, quite simply, a fantastic novel - and one that I would unhesitatingly reccomend to anyone. The plot is thought-provoking (what would it be like to go back to your hometown after you wrote a scathing memoir about it?), with wonderful outbursts of humour ("It's all going to be OK," I said. Just then, my Mercedes blew up on the drive.), and a truly moving sub-plot involving the main character's old best friend, who is battling with AIDS.

The conversational tone of the book draws you in, and really gets you inside Joe's head as he describes the events happening around him. The snippets from his infamous book skillfully plug gaps in the narrative, and characters long-since dead in the novel spring off the pages as if they were truly alive. Joe's relationship with his estranged family is delicately realised, with even the smallest of characters gaining their own, individual personailties. How Tropper manages to fit a love story in there as well is beyond me, but he still does it.

Joe's character grows and changes during the course of the novel, which is a delight to watch, and as he comes to terms with the fact that the people in Bush Falls may not be all *that* bad, we can empathise with him. He's a wonderful creation on the part of the author, and Tropper is setting a high mark for the rest of his work in this book. The balance between humour and tragedy is tender, and will keep you reading until the very last page with the minumum of breaks.

I wish I could write more about this book, but all I can do is reccomend it from the bottom of my heart, and tell you to read it with a box of tissues by your side - and believe me, if a book can make *my* eyes prickle, then it can move anyone to tears.
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on 26 September 2007
This is a unique and simply brilliant book.

Joe Goffman returns to Bush Falls after 17 years away to see his dying father. He doesn't receive a warm welcome. He is a successful author with one problem - his acclaimed novel is not so loosely based on the story of his youth - and he's used his writing to throw a few literal punches to some of the town folk he clearly holds responsible for the cataclysmic events that shaped his teenage years and ultimately his life.

Back then Joe wasn't the most popular teenager. Never a star on the basketball field, not the most popular with girls and with just two best friends, his book remembers a summer that was filled with the promise of love but that ended in a series of tragic events that changed the lives of all those closest to him.

When he returns to the Falls, Joe is keen to get in and out in the shortest possible time. But old friendships, love affairs and family get in the way and he soon finds himself absorbed back into life in Bush Falls.

He encounters his oldest friend Wayne now back in the Falls with his family and dying from AIDS, his brother and family who are virtual strangers to Joe, his first love Carly and of course the townsfolk who all want revenge.

In his book 'How to talk to a widower' and now in this one Jonathan Tropper vividly describes the emotions that we can all relate to - love, shame, friendship, regret and courage - with such a light touch, with humour and in such simple language that it simply takes your breath away.

It's a book that will make you laugh I promise. It will also bring a tear to your eye. So buy'll be the best book you've bought all year

And if you haven't read How to talk to a widower, then put that on your Amazon Wish List too. Jonathan Tropper is writing superb books at the moment.
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on 16 May 2004
Anyone who has ever lived in a small town, and left it for the big city is really going to appreciate this wonderfully sly, clever and whimsical novel by Jonathan Tropper, where memory is never beholden to chronology. With its duel narrative, switching from the present to the mid nineteen eighties, The Book of Joe tells the story of Joe Goffman, who returns to his hometown of Bush Falls in Connecticut after he learns that his estranged father is in a coma. A scathing and contemptuous novel Joe once wrote afflicts and sours his homecoming; but to make matters worse, the novel has been made into a hit movie, which damns the small mindedness and bigotry of the town. Now thirty four, and living an "empty" life in New York, Joe returns to face the demons of the past and to face his friends and family with whom he hasn’t had much to do with for seventeen years.
Joe returns to a town that is solidly immersed in recession, with for sale signs on the front lawns, and a sense of desperation in the "quotidian tidiness." And to many of the residents, Joe has done unknowable and irreparable damage to their town, and to their reputations. The local book club throws copies of his book onto his lawn, a customer at the local cafe hurls a milkshake over him, and his childhood sweetheart Carly - with who he is still in love – is angry and resentful at his thoughtlessness in writing the book. Joe faces an uphill battle to reconnect with his brother Brad, and Brad's wife Cindy, but he succeeds forming an adolescent bond with his nephew Jared, and his old friend Wayne, who has returned to Bush Falls from Los Angeles, and who is now suffering from AIDS. Joe has spent so much time re-living and rewriting those years that he can no longer discern "which vignettes are the result of which process." But through his daffy, intuitive literary agent Owen, Joe comes to terms with the fact that he has a compulsive need right past wrongs.
As the scattered fragments of Joes past "pop up like Starbucks franchises," he revisits the dreadful dealings of his senior year in nineteen eighty-six, where he discovers sex with Carly, and the fact that, Wayne and Sammy, his two best friends are gay. Joe loved to hang out with Wayne and Sammy, singing the lyrics to the music of Bruce Springsteen, smoking lots of dope, and salivating after Lucy Harber, Sammy's curvaceous and attractive mother. But Joe gradually finds himself becoming embroiled in the sexual politics of the town, as he tries desperately to keep Wayne and Sammy's affair a secret from the small-minded community. Seventeen years later, Joe wants to forgive Bush Falls and particularly his father, but somewhere he blinks and all those years has flown by in an "uneven forgiveness," which has "become septic, like an infection festering inside him." Joe has shed all those who cared about him "like a snakeskin."
Joe thinks he's exorcised the demons by writing the book, but on returning to Bush Falls, he realizes that he's only appeased them temporarily. And he wonders how unwittingly he's drifted from the boy he used to be and how little he has to show for it. The last seventeen years seem to have been reduced to this tiny area on the map of his life, "just a little yellow shade on the legend to mark my time away from the falls." Tropper's message is that holding onto anger, in whatever form, is a waste of time, in fact, it's a waste of life. Immensely readable, thoroughly enjoyable, and with a nicely controlled narrative, The Book of Joe never falls into urban cliché or fake sentiment. Although some readers might find the ending a little predictable and contrived – there is the expected death, and also the expected romantic redemption for Joe, the story still remains one of the most entertaining the year. Immensely filmable and beautifully told, it comes as no surprise that the movie rights for this fine novel have been optioned. Mike Leonard May 04.
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on 7 August 2007
Wonderful book, but please don't make the same mistake I did and buy Bush Falls too - The Book of Joe and Bush Falls are exactly the same book, just with a different title. Very well worth reading, however!
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VINE VOICEon 29 June 2009
Having really enjoyed 'How to Talk to a Widower' by Tropper, I sought out this book. The wit that I loved in the first book was still evident in this offering, much to my glee.

The plot of this book is great - an author who has written a scathing account of growing up in his home town, returns after 17 years. From the minute he enters the town, the hatred people hold for him becomes evident. He reminisces about his childhood, about the small-mindedness of people in the town and, for the first time, really starts to come to terms with the traumatic events of his teenage years.

This is a coming of age story and also a tale of redemption. Tropper is almost too aware of the cliched route and tries to circumvent it. Without wanting to give too much away, there's a scene in the high school gym which seems to be leading up to a momentous event, but Tropper sees this, addresses it and moves away from what in a movie would be a tear-jerking moment resplendent with emotive music and flashbacks. It's very funny!

At times the story does stretch the limits of believability, but you find yourself wanting to go along with it because it all paves the path to Joe's redemption.

All in all, a great light read.
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on 24 February 2008
After recently reading, and throughly enjoying, Tropper's "How to Talk to a Widower" I gave Bush Falls a read. What an absolutely fantastic book! Although "Widower" seems to have all the acclaim, I dare say this book is even better.

I won't go into all the details of the story line as several others have already given the synopsis.

Tropper has a way of developing wonderfully real, wonderfully human characters that are easy to identify with and who you probably know in real life. He has a sardonic sense of humour which is a pleasure to read. He addresses serious issues in this book, death, AIDS, facing your demons, with irreverence but deep compassion and realism.

For me, a sign of a great book is me wanting it to never end and for me to know what happens to the characters after it is over. I become so attached to the characters, that I NEED to know what happens to them now.

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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 June 2011
An excellent read. I am a huge Jonathan Tropper fan and have read and loved all his books but have to say The Book of Joe is my favourite. The story is about a man who leaves his hometown and writes a revealing book about the folk living there only to find he has to return when his father is ill only to face the wrath of the people he wrote about. What is so superb about the author is that he has the ability in his writing to make you laugh and cry, as although very funny it also touches on sensitive subjects as well, and you cannot help but root for Joe, the hero of the book.
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I love Jonathan Tropper's writing. I first read his book How to Talk to a Widower and was amazed at how exquisitely he handles these vignettes of ordinary lives acted out against the enormity of death, bereavement, loss and other, huge emotions. He provides solace, amusement and a deft sense of social time and place. The Book of Joe, also published as Bush Falls is another masterpiece. Dealing with Joe Goffman, a thirty something, successful novelist who is lost in his own life and success after having made his money from a book which dissed everyone in his home town. His father has a stroke and Joe decides to go home after a seventeen year absence to see if he can make his peace, find himself and sort out how his life has gone so badly awry when he has everything he ever wanted, except happiness.
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on 20 June 2008
I thoroughly enjoyed two other Tropper books: 'How to talk to a widower' and 'Everything changes' so decided to try this one. If you have enjoyed either of these other books I think this would appeal to you as well.

Once again the death of someone plays a central role to the plot but the story is completely different. The characters are well drawn and plausible and stay with you once the book is finished. The story moves at a fast pace, keeping you absorbed and wanting more. It is written with a sardonic humour (like the other Tropper books mentioned above) and this occasionaly seems wanton and excessive and perhaps detracts a little from the writing. There are some positively cartoon moments in the story which likewise make it seem written more for effect (- cinematic?) and remind you that you're reading a book as they're somewhat implausible.

Overall I would recommend this book which is moving, funny, thought-provoking, fast paced and based on a less conventional theme. Would have liked to have given this 4 and a half stars but I didn't feel it was quite 5 due to the odd moments of farce.
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on 13 November 2010
I REALLY enjoyed this read. Shame that I also bought Bush Falls which I'm now guessing is the American title? Have enjoyed all of Tropper's writing. Fun, lighthearted but you empathise with the characters. This one even brought some tears!
Great read...enjoy!
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