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Monday, April 1, 2013

Beyond John Dunn by Thurman P. Banks Jr: A Book Review

I spent part of my Spring Break reading Thurman P. Banks Jr.'s new self published book "Beyond John Dann".  Let me begin in saying I "met" Thurman on Twitter, I honestly can't remember if I found him or if he found me but, either way we both share a common trait, we're both writers.

Anyhow, Thurman was promoting his new book on Twitter--- "Beyond John Dunn" when I approached him and asked if I could buy direct from him and have him sign it-- he did.  Know, before anybody gets to thinking there is more here than what I am stating--- there is not.  Thurman did not ask me to write a review, and as of this writing Thurman has no idea I am even doing this.  I "barely" know Thurman, except for the few e-mails we have exchanged, but if given the chance I would cherish the day I could call Thurman---my best friend.

This is also a first for this blog, where I review a book, but this book-- well it's an exception to the rule and I wanted to share with you, my readers why.

John Dann is the youngest, and also last child of Susan and John  Dann Sr.  He is also the only boy in a group of five sisters, and the seven of them live in Hayward County, Connecticut.  John Sr., or Big John as he was nicknamed,  is an alcoholic as well as being an abusive husband and father in the beginning of the story, who is prone to both physical and mental abuse of everyone except John Jr.

Life has a way of moving forward and after some pages into this book, Big John leaves the family high and dry by walking out on all of them—although he was not really there all that much to begin with.  In an ironic twist Susan, now on her own with six children to raise, throws all the girls out of the house to fend for themselves and only “keeps” John Jr. at home.  

 In this midst of this Susan also because the abuser and works here way through a string of men—who John Jr. believes are just “friends”.  This string of men woven throughout Susan’s life ends with a man named Austin.
Austin, well he is the character I tend to believe, everyone will hate—unemployed, no ambition, a bit of a bum and we come to learn through the text--- a child molester.  Austin sexually abuses a few of Susan’s granddaughters.  While many women would  immediately walk away, Susan does everything in her power to--- in the words of Tammy Wynette ---“stand by her man” including mortgage her home, lose her family and go into a tailspin of self-abuse with alcohol and denial. 

Alcoholism and drug use, as well  trying to quit, the ramifications on a family because of self-abuse and finally the toils self-abuse on the abuser all devastatingly and honestly  are discussed here.  It is this theme that, in my opinion, that reverberates throughout the entire text.  But it is not only about the loss, the hurt, the shame-- this book is also about the hope, the triumph as well as the loss and finally about the growth it takes to become more than “our problems”.

John Sr. on the other hand goes through a metamorphosis in this book and with his outcome, which I do not want to give away, you are left vulnerable and sensitive just like his family is.  The girls (sisters), all but one, share their problems with men, marriage, booze, pills and one even later in the text comes out as a lesbian Buddhist.

The majority of this story is John Jr. and his struggle with accepting and acknowledging his own pain, his own loss, and his own addictions and failed relationships.  The agony here is very authentic and rips your heart out, where in parts you are left crying as you turn the page.  But like John Sr., John Jr. also goes through his own transformation, and we the readers of this text get a painful yet joyful front seat to that glorious transformation.

Thurman P.  Banks Jr., weaves sentences like no other--- there are so many quotable passages here that linger in you consciousness—I want to give you an example:

Mine is a tortured love affair that I have tried to walk away from, but cannot.  My destiny has been to walk these roads.  Every laugh, every tear, every emotion is another string tying me to this place.  But it’s the memory of her dying eyes that hold me with the greatest strength now.  Like a spiders prey caught in the web, they hold me, and devour me.”

There is here in this literary narrative an impression that this story “could be” first-hand experience— now I am not saying it or isn’t, that is up to Thurman to share if he wishes to do so--but what this text does is create honesty, vulnerability, openness and an outright frankness that makes you the reader believe that John Dunn Jr. exists, his experiences—not unlike other children of alcoholics—has really happened and that Thurman knows John Dunn Jr. like no other human being. Theirs is an exceptionally rare relationship where one can say anything without offending, know everything without walking away and know each other to the core, and still beyond everything be able to deeply love. If we can have that with one other person than we are deeply blessed, and Thurman has been blessed with John Dunn Jr.

This book, if you give it a chance, will be life changing.  It will give you characters and scenes you will not be able to forget, a book in many ways you will not be able to put down and in all honesty if some big publisher doesn’t pick this up—well it’s an outright damn shame.  This is the type of book, in my opinion, could be one of Oprah's Book Club choices and if she hasn't gotten a copy of this I think she should!

Thurman, thank you for incredible gift of “Beyond John Dunn” and for sharing his life with us, you were right—you are the only one who can tell this commanding and important story and we your readers thank you very deeply.  

Take the opportunity to buy Thurman P. Banks Jr.’s book "Beyond John Dunn", follow him on Twitter at @thurman_p and finally take time and curl up with a good book--- preferably his.

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