“Boon” by TJ Sullivan – A Review

A couple of caveats before I get into the meat of this review.

One, TJ is a friend and a former colleague, the first being more important than the second.

Two, I’ve always admired TJ’s writing. He has a poet’s feel for prose. TJ wasn’t the best reporter in our little pod of government and political reporters many years ago. I’d have to give that honor to Michael Spunkmeisel, or whatever his name is. But TJ was easily the most gifted writer in that pod.

Having said that, the novel TJ says he wrote is not the novel I read. There’s nothing particularly unusual about that. Once the words leave the writer’s hands, they belong to the reader. I once wrote a puff piece on a police lieutenant who, based on that piece, accused me of trying to sabotage his career. That’s an extreme example, but you get my point.

Regardless, TJ would have you believe his debut novel is about reporter Jake LaMotta who “is forced to choose between her dream house and fighting for what she believes in.” It’s a high-minded book about journalism ethics, about a reporter who gets sidetracked just for a moment in her pursuit of truth, justice and the American Dream.

TJ can believe that if he wants, but “Boon” is much more base than that. Yes, Jake is a dedicated and diligent – some might say gifted – journalist, at least on the surface. She is equally gifted physically, the kind of young woman who can wear sweatpants with “Juicy” written on her rump and men smile and nod in appreciation. But Jake is hampered by being a spoiled brat who feels betrayed by her parents because they chose not to remain married, who lives a lie by surrounding herself with lies, who easily falls into a lie because subconsciously that’s all she knows, who then finally rises to the occasion only because the truth bitch-slaps that pretty little face of hers.

I can tell you why TJ titled his book “Boon,” but I’m going to make you read it yourself to figure it out. Consider it an enticement to buy this well-researched and well-written, if misnamed, novel. Personally, I would have titled it “Bunnies.”

Bunnies are the daydream doodles Jake scribbles in the margins of her legal pad while waiting for the new editor to begin his first staff meeting. Bunnies are the false promises made to a childhood friend who spoke to Jake as she reeled from the yellow journalism now being forced down her throat. Bunnies are cute little forms that make people smile, like Jake herself. But they are lies, like Jake has lived all her life without knowing it, unconsciously embracing them in the choices she makes, before fighting for and against the big one she is about to perpetrate. Then there’s the cat named Bunny that Jake’s husband, Keith Torrance, is contractually required to care for. Bunny escapes in the end too, finding truth outside the fake world Jake and Keith have built and burned together.

There’s not a likeable main character in the book, if you exclude Jake’s friend and metaphoric savior, Maggie. Keith is a narcissistic conniver, always looking for the easiest path through life, whether it’s riding the hem of his wife’s success or making up sources for his news stories. He’s a bully and a braggart. Maxine Lugner – Jake and Keith’s coworker – is also a conniver. But unlike Keith, who is naturally a bastard, Maxine is purposely and calculatingly manipulative. Maxine knows what she wants and will use food, sex or cigarettes to get it. Jake is cute, smart and naive to the point of being criminal. Her love for Keith blinds her to his true personality. Where he is a conniver, she seeks a moral purpose to everything she does. Even when she goes over the edge, it’s to build a better life for her and her husband. I know women like Jake. They’re pitiable.

All of which makes “Boon” a very good read. We all know people like Jake, Keith, Maxine, Maggie and Michael Spunkmeisel. Well, maybe not Michael. He’s in a class of his own. But TJ brings the rest of them to life and connects the personal webs they spin for themselves into a tapestry of life with all its ugliness and beauty.

“Boon,” TJ Sullivan’s first – but not last – published novel, proves this former journalist has nailed the fiction genre too.

Available in both soft- and hardcover wherever fine literature is sold.

TITLE: Boon
AUTHOR: T.J. Sullivan
GENRE: Gen Fic, Contemp Women, Politics
PB ISBN: 978-0-615-32527-9
HB ISBN: 978-0-615-33482-0
eBook ISBN: 978-0-615-33462-2
LCCN: 2009909910


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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