I have to confess that the original biggest draw to The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper for me was the fact that the main character was returning to his hometown 17 years after his high school graduation in 1986. Since I graduated in 1988, I assumed there would be some fun, nostalgia-type information in the book, which is absolutely true. I especially loved the connection of Bruce Springsteen songs to the story.
After reading the book, I know I would have enjoyed the story, regardless of my age-related connection, since Tropper's writing style is so entertaining. One brief scene between Joe and the mom of his high school best friend Wayne alone makes the book worth reading.
Basic bones of the story: Joe Goffman writes a tell-all book about his hometown of Bush Falls, Connecticut, describing the events of his senior year in high school that becomes a bestseller and a blockbuster movie. Seventeen years after the events of that senior year, and without a single visit home in the interim, Joe is called by his sister-in-law to come back because his father has had a stroke and is in a coma.
Suddenly, with his return to Bush Falls, Joe finds himself facing the people in town and the events of his senior year all over again. We travel along with Joe as he either reconnects, or attempts to, with his brother, his high school sweetheart, Wayne, and others in Bush Falls. Especially important is the bond he forms with his nephew, who is now in high school in Bush Falls and not so very different from Uncle Joe.
Can Joe find his "real self" and form a life more meaningful than his current, lonely existence in Manhattan? He can only try.
I enjoyed this book so much that I bought Tropper's Everything Changes at Barnes & Noble on Saturday. Hope Changes is as well-written and entertaining as The Book of Joe.
My overall personal rating of The Book of Joe is an A.