Heroine’s Satirical Journey from Body-Building to Poetry and Self-Improvement

Heroine’s Satirical Journey from Body-Building to Poetry and Self-Improvement

The Bulgarian Training Manual by Ruth Bonapace

What’s It About?
With the help of a mysterious book with magical powers, Tina makes her way from her waterlogged apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, to an Oz-like journey to Bulgaria and back. Our heroine is the catalyst for a final contest that is part body-builder pose-off and part poetry slam.

What do gluten-free communion wafers and arugula-eating snails have in common? Well, if you’re a bodybuilder, it turns out these are two powerhouse secrets to a ripped physique — along with other, shall we say, less conventional methods. Debut novelist Ruth Bonapace takes us through an epic workout of the imagination in The Bulgarian Training Manual, out now from Clash Books.

Guided by a Mysterious Manuscript
It’s the story of Cristina Acqualina Bontempi (or “Tina” for short), a brash Jersey girl with a Realtor license and a plumbing-challenged basement apartment, a post-college slacker who receives a mysterious manuscript called — you guessed it — The Bulgarian Training Manual from her friend, Big Steve. It’s a compendium of workout regimens, recipes, rituals and advice — some of it quite bizarre — all intended to strengthen the mind and body. And it’s all very hush-hush.

Looking back, she should have seen it coming; she first met Steve at his parents’ apartment complex. He was working at the town dump by day and by night, shutting himself into his apartment to commune with a tree outside his window. Compare the pale, neurotic manchild of that day to Big Steve: a somewhat egotistical gym rat raking it in as an importer of some rather sketchy nutraceuticals.

It’s evident that a transformation is well underway. Little does Tina know, but The Bulgarian Training Manual will influence her in ways that go beyond the typical self-help book. You can say it changes her to the very core, pun intended. But first, she’ll find herself a reluctant catalyst for a scheme to restore Bulgaria’s glory days in bodybuilding — an art, as it turns out, that involves brains as well as brawn. Spirituality as well as physicality. Poetry as well as posture.

Joyride of Self-Discovery
Bonapace takes us on a joyride of self-discovery, not just from New Jersey to Bulgaria and back again, but also into the mind of a hilarious heroine whose mental gymnastics include wild flights of fancy, intellectual overthinking, and alliterative wordplay. All of this wrapped in a sarcasm and spunk that’ll have you cheering her on, every step (and misstep) of the way.

Tina’s narrative voice has a manic-euphoric quality as she encounters synchronicities and connections in everything around her. There’s a sort of magic at work, surreal events and circumstances that seem random but all point down the same path to her destiny. And just when you start feeling a bit lost as to what’s going on, she pulls you back into the plot and sets the ship aright. It’s not an easy feat, but Bonapace handles it masterfully, as she does with weaving in deeper themes that touch on the malleability of reality: identity and image, perception and illusion. If you’re a fan of quirky characters, inventive prose and bizarre happenstance with a wink and nod to the intellectual, The Bulgarian Training Manual will keep you pumping through the pages with unfettered delight.

About Ruth Bonapace:
Meet Ruth Bonapace, a Brooklyn-born author with a BA and MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook University. Ruth has been a journalist, essayist, mortgage banker, real estate agent, laundromat manager and, of course, waitress. Not in that order.

The Bulgarian Training Manual, published by Clash Books, is her debut novel. Ruth’s fascination with the world of athletes began while covering professional sports for The Associated Press and continued through her own experiences at the gym. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, including The Southampton Review, The Saturday Evening Post, Thin Air Magazine, Hippocampus Magazine, Newsday, The New York Times, and The Newark Star-Ledger. She was an American Writer’s Review finalist for 2022 and 2023.

Ruth, a.k.a. Mom, has three children and lives in New Jersey. Do not ask how she finds time to write.

Source: Clash Books

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