Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel
by Bob Thurber
It’s 1969 and the entire nation is waiting for the United States to win the space race and put the first man on the moon. Meanwhile, fourteen-year-old Jack Fisher—malnourished and battered, abandoned by his father, neglected by his mother, manipulated by his older sister, harangued by his boss, and shortchanged by customers—is delivering newspapers in downtown Pawtucket and trying to keep his family from self-destructing completely. As the whole world holds its breath to see what will become of the Apollo 11 astronauts, Jack clings to his daily mantra, “Things will get better.” But in this poignant novel by award-winning short story writer Bob Thurber, things do not get better; they get drastically worse, at space-age speed.
FICTION / General
ISBN: 978-1-941830-34-5 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Published by Casperian Books, Sacramento, California, 2011
BOB THURBER was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1955. Despite poverty, lack of formal education, and a series of dull dreary jobs, he worked obsessively at writing nearly every day for twenty years before attempting to publish his work. Since then his short fiction has received numberous awards and citations and has appeared in hundreds of publications and dozens of anthologies. He is the author of four books.
"Mr. Thurber lays his soul bare in this book, like Prometheus exposing his liver to the eagles. It is the price paid for being a lightbringer, and Mr. Thurber gives us his life willingly, beautifully expressed. For readers with a history of sexual or physical abuse, this book is a comfort and consolation, a triumph over shame and silence. For other readers, this book may be disturbing but it is a powerful bridge to visit the terrain of abuse, and I would recommend it as a basis for dialogue with family or friends who have suffered this. Beyond the psychology, Paperboy is an artistic achievement. The quality of writing rivals Alice Munro, yet the story of Jack pulls us forward faster than any story of Munro's, for we are racing to know this boy better, this boy who does not slide into self-pity or blame, who braves his world with a power that we admire and cling to, a broken boy who will not break. He's my hero."
— Susan Pieters, Editor, PULP Literature
"A brave book, a necessary book."
Bob Thurber is a masterful wordsmith, driving you into the undiscovered corners of the heart with insight and courage.
Paperboy continues to haunt my consciousness. The narrator's skill and veracity in this spared-down and guileless rendering I consider a rare literary achievement.
“A haunting and brutally honest portrayal of a lost boy who resorts to extreme measures to cope with a very dysfunctional life. It is not young-adult reading, and is not for the feint of heart. The title, and all that it evokes, belies the seething chaos of a family gone awry. But it is a story beautifully written and it is rendered with a love and compassion that feels more like a memoir than a novel.”
“In his debut novel Paperboy, Bob Thurber manages to encapsulate the fears, aberrations, and turbulence trembling throughout America into one single family whose entire basis of survival seems to be summed up by their dysfunction. Told through the perspective of fourteen-year-old Jack Fisher, the novel is quilted together through a collection of 157 short vignettes, each delivered through concise language and brutal honesty that burns like a shot of whisky. When collected together, the pain and traumas suffered by Jack and his sister Kelly become overwhelmingly disturbing. Thurber’s writing is gut-wrenching and impactful and will have the reader begging for more.”
“The thing is, reading this book, even at its darkest places, you can see Bob Thurber’s fingerprints. He’s so sharp — especially at short fiction — that he writes short burning chapters from which you can’t tear away. He slugs you right in the gut without any maudlin posturing — you’ll probably ask for more. Raw and horrific throughout, but genuinely funny in places.”
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