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Heroine's Satirical Journey: From Bodybuilding to Poetry

Heroine’s Satirical Journey: From Bodybuilding to Poetry

What do gluten-free communion wafers and arugula-eating snails have in common?

If you’re a bodybuilder, these might just be the secrets to achieving a ripped physique — alongside some unconventional methods. Debut novelist Ruth Bonapace delves into this offbeat theme in her new book, “The Bulgarian Training Manual,” now available from Clash Books.

The novel centers on Cristina Acqualina Bontempi, known as “Tina,” a bold Jersey girl with a real estate license. Living in a basement apartment with plumbing issues, Tina finds herself a post-college slacker until she receives a mysterious manuscript titled “The Bulgarian Training Manual” from her friend Big Steve. This manual is an eclectic mix of workout routines, recipes, rituals, and advice — much of it bizarre — meant to bolster both mind and body. And it’s all very secretive.

Reflecting on her life, Tina should have seen the warning signs. She first met Steve at his parents’ apartment complex. By day, he worked at the town dump; by night, he locked himself in his apartment to communicate with a tree outside his window. This pale, neurotic manchild eventually transformed into Big Steve: a somewhat egotistical gym enthusiast making a living importing dubious nutraceuticals.

Clearly, a transformation was taking place. Unbeknownst to Tina, the Bulgarian Training Manual would influence her deeply, changing her at the very core. But first, Tina becomes an unwitting player in a plot to restore Bulgaria’s bodybuilding glory days — a discipline that encompasses brains, spirituality, poetry, and physical prowess.

Bonapace takes readers on a wild ride of self-discovery, moving from New Jersey to Bulgaria and back. The journey dives into the mind of a hilarious heroine, whose mental gymnastics are filled with intellectual musings, fantastical imaginations, and expertly crafted wordplay. Wrapped in sarcasm and spunk, Tina’s story keeps you rooting for her, step after misstep.

Tina’s narrative voice is manic yet euphoric as she unravels synchronicities and connections in her surroundings. There’s an almost magical element at play, with surreal events and seemingly random circumstances all pointing towards her destiny. Just when things seem a bit too chaotic, Tina pulls readers back into the story and redirects the plot masterfully.

Bonapace skillfully integrates deeper themes, touching on the fluidity of reality, identity, image, perception, and illusion.

Fans of quirky characters, inventive prose, and bizarre occurrences with an intellectual twist will find “The Bulgarian Training Manual” a compelling and delightful read. Bonapace’s work promises to keep you eagerly turning pages, reveling in the peculiar yet fascinating world she has crafted.

Source: Clash Books