Review: Spungunion by John Boden

Spungunion by John Boden
Fungasm Press (January 15, 2020)
106 pages: $9.95 paperback
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Once every blue moon, a reader will encounter an author who possesses a storytelling style that works for them every damn time. I have a few of these authors. Let’s call them the “Do-No-Wrongs.”

John Boden is a “Do-No-Wrong.”

Whether he’s lending his voice to a collaboration with Chad Lutzke or Bob Ford or one of many authors with a story in an anthology—whatever the case may be, I’ll be a fan of it. Having read almost everything I could get my hands on of Boden’s work, it’s my opinion that Spungunion is the pinnacle. You could start here and have the best possible representation of Boden’s unique way of telling stories; his special brand of character development, and that magical sadness he weaves throughout.

Deke Larch is a man on a mission. It’s not a noble mission. It’s a self-serving quest to restore what little sanity the man has left and damn the consequences. Quite remarkably, Boden’s protagonist follows a disturbing rendition of the “hero’s journey.” There’s a mentor figure with an unusual occupation. There are obstacles and enemies that try to distract Deke from his mission, and then there is that threshold moment when our unlikely hero must make difficult choices and either return home the same as he was, or push himself harder and forever be changed.

As the reader bearing witness to the whole affair, I can assure you that you impossibly hope for the best. Your heart is given to Deke on page one and it’s hard to watch him run away with it. There’s one scene where I wanted to cry out, “Uncle! I give! I give!” but Boden doesn’t pull any punches for you, sorry to say. It’s another one of those trademark moves you can assign to certain authors. John Boden will not let you off the hook easily. There’s no sparing of feelings here.

How all of this happens in about one hundred pages is mind-blowing.

It’s that magical sadness I mentioned earlier. Somehow, some way, Boden is able to infuse authenticity and sincerity into everything. By the end of this novella, my emotions were a tangled heap; tears were shed, my heart broken.

But it’s what I expect with John Boden’s stories. It’s what fans of his work show up for time and time again. I can’t wait to see what’s next in 2020 for this author. I will read all of it.

If you’re an emotional reader who enjoys investing in well written characters going through heartbreaking trials, I highly recommend Spungunion to you. You will never forget it.

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