Winner of the 2006 Ottawa Book Award for English Fiction
Bonk on the Head is the fictional account of a young man's strange and gruelling journey through military indoctrination, and the strange and gruelling family life that drives him to it. Author John-James Ford, himself a graduate of Royal Military College, presents a spirited coming-of-age novel that is at once both gripping and hilarious. The unforgettable Verbal Kempt, boy-man, flits between deranged assaults on the senses and sensory deprivation, between memory and amnesia, to define and redefine his own understanding of freedom and personality. His dilemmas take the form of private wars inside and outside the skull--embroiling family, institutions, landscape and language.
[A]t its best the writing is hilarious, vivid, and moves with an energetic narrative thrust that makes for compulsive reading.
--Ian Colford, The Fiddlehead
... [B]eautifully and fully written . .. Bonk on the Head would be enjoyable to those interested in military tales but equally enjoyable to those who prefer tales of the psyche . .. a pleasure to read.
--Sondra Fowler, Reader Views
Verbal Kempt is Holden Caufield for a new generation.
Ford, a Foreign Service Officer, spins a debut novel ripe with genuine humour and horror, detailing the sordid history of a dysfunctional family and the viciousness of Military College through the eyes of a young man . .. But the honesty and wit of [main character Verbal Kempt's] inevitable self-destruction carries and engages throughout Bonk on the Head, leaving the reader lingering on the questions of what exactly is a good solider.
--Aaron Tucker, The Danforth Review
...a finely drawn, often unsettling book.
--Andrew Armitage, The Sun Times
Using a manic, hilarious, and cheerfully vulgar style, Ford recounts the coming-of-age of Verbal Kempt, the son of a well-known army colonel and grandson of a D-Day veteran . .. Bonk on the Head is entertaining. Ultimately, Verbal Kempt learns that the price of living up to the expectations of the Kernel is that he must, in effect, become him. Readers must decide for themselves whether he goes through with it.
--K. Gordon Neufeld, The Calgary Herald
[An] assured, often disturbing debut . .. Ford negotiates the labyrinth of emotions with prose that enters the mind . .. simply and powerfully, like all the things it evokes: volcanic anger, sorrow, aching regret . .. Ford couldn't be more attuned to the tragic potential in petty resentments and the inability to express love.
--Jim Bartley, The Globe and Mail
With its combination of warmth, humour and brutal honesty, Bonk on the Head is just the book to shake CanLit from its safety harness.
--Chris Robinson, a href=http://www. ottawaxpress. ca/books/books. aspx?iIDArticle=6856>Ottawa XPress
Hemingway, Mailer, Joseph Heller, Tobias Wolff -- Americans have a long rich tradition of writing about the military, but very few Canadians have picked up the torch. John-James Ford tackles the mysteries of the military in stunning style, and reveals the rage, the sex, the hazing, the hatred, and the physical transformation of young recruits at Royal Military College. Bonk on the Head is a tour of duty and a tour de force.
--Mark Anthony Jarman
... delves deeply into the reality of a military education and, as such, is a finely drawn, often unsettling book.
--Andrew Armitage, The Sun-Times