Review: The Jiu-Jitsu Bum

JJ BumI’m always nervous when I read a novel written by someone I know. I always really, really want the book to be good, and, when it’s not, I can barely look the person in the face because how can you not connect someone’s art with the individual who created it (if there’s a way I certainly haven’t discovered it yet)?

Recently I read the book, Jiu-Jitsu Bum, by Chris Campion, a fellow writer who graduated from the same MFA program as yours truly. I’m happy to say that I will look Chris in the face the next time I see him and share a might man-shake because his debut novel was a solid read with deep (although quite depressing) characters.

The book centers around a man named Evan Connor, a former drug addict just being released from prison and attempting to integrate back into civilian life in Scranton, Pennsylvania (the perfect setting for a depressing story). He has two sons (one in the military and another an aspiring musician) who want nothing to do with him, a wife who won’t let him in the house, and friends who won’t let him forget his past. When things are at their bleakest, Evan wanders into a jiu-jitsu dojo and his life changes forever…although not entirely for the better.

I have to admit that I know very little about jiu-jitsu or martial arts, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. Chris uses jiu-jitsu as a device for Evan’s redemption rather than the central focus of the story so the terminology and holds never overwhelm the narrative and Evan’s journey of redemption, which is always the focal point of the novel. I loved the ending, too, because most redemption stories have ultra-cheesy Disneyfied endings, and this one certainly did not. It was subtle, realistic, and satisfying.

If you’re interested in reading a very compelling, character-driven story set in Scranton, you can get your own copy at Amazon. Read it!

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~ by themoderntranscendentalist on October 31, 2013.

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