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Fup by Jim Dodge

Granddaddy gave him his full, five-toothed
grin: 'Fup Duck. Ya get it? Fup... Duck.'
If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.

We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he enjoys building them.

And that's just the thin stem of plot that sustains a plethora of branched asides and anecdotes, quips, and quirks. It resonates deeply within me, its sparse but immaculate colloquial prose a mix of gritty realism, stubborn optimism and joyful fantasy. Fup is belligerently loveable, Granddaddy Jake is mad as a coot, convinced his homebrew makes him immortal, but saner than anyone of which I can think in a modern American novel, and Lockjaw is a cautionary tale about never meeting your idols (or nemeses). 

It brings me unalloyed joy to read this over again and to recommend it to anyone who'll listen. If you need something to read in the hospital or on a particularly horrific commute, this will put you righter than a six-month course of mindfulness.


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