Surviving Joy

J. P. Miller, Author
J. P. Miller, Author Dutton Books $21.5 (256p) ISBN 978-1-55611-448-9
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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Miller, author of the Emmy-winning teleplay Days of Wine and Roses, paints an affecting portrait of life in Depression-era Houston, but his tale of mismatched young lovers rarely transcends the boundaries of the coming-of-age genre. Protagonist Dub Johnson is a plugger, a diligent teenager who gains admission to Rice University despite his family's poverty and the negative effects of a philandering, alcoholic father. But when adolescent sexuality rears its rambunctious head in the person of new-girl-in-town Joy Hurt, Dub loses both good judgment and common sense and embarks on an amateur boxing career to please his libidinous lover. The relationship between the upwardly mobile boy and the girl from the wrong side of the tracks is poignantly rendered, particularly during the novel's final third, as Dub disengages from the affair and Joy's excesses begin to get the best of her. Miller draws strong characters, and his period writing is equally graceful, especially the hardscrabble boxing scenes that adroitly reveal the disparities in the protagonists' backgrounds. But, unfortunately, too many scenes remain formulaic, and ultimately readers will find little here that hasn't been said before. (May)
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