Glenn Tupper is a small town mechanic who leads a normal life trying to make ends meet each month with a wife who stretches their income to its limits to provide for their two teen-aged children. Phil Granby is a U.S. Senator who has thrown his hat into the presidential ring. Jarma Jordan is an unknown blogger who, thanks to a grant, has chosen to follow the Granby campaign at close quarters. What all three don’t know at the outset of the story is how all of their lives will change when the Iowa caucuses kick off the run for the presidency.
Glenn, out on a call to fix some broken farm equipment, rescues stranded U.S. Senator Granby and his campaign manager as they are on their way to Des Moines when their rental car breaks down. Glenn gives them a lift in his truck and for almost two hours he and Phil Granby exchange their views on the world. Mostly Senator Granby listens to Glenn and asks insightful questions to which Glenn easily responds in an unvarnished way.
Later that evening, when Candidate Granby gives his first speech in Iowa, he literally rips up the speech that he paid thousands of dollars to have written by a professional consultant and begins to talk about his friend Tupper and about the honesty that is missing from political campaigns. Granby has nothing to lose since his opponent is highly favored to win in Iowa. But when the tide is turned and Granby ties his opponent, the opposition camp goes into high gear. Once the Granby entourage moves to New Hampshire, Jarma Jordan – blogger extraordinaire – stays in Iowa to track down the mysterious Tupper. She at least finds him and he gives permission for her to uncover his identity to the world, hoping that she is correct when she tells him he may get a few calls from some local news outlets but shouldn’t expect to be bothered. When Glenn awakes the next day to find an army of news media on his front lawn, he realizes that he and his family have become captives in their own home. And when the opposition camp decides to ruin Granby by destroying his friend Tupper, Glenn must face a secret that will almost destroy his family.
Tell It Like Tupper is a powerful novel not only for its exposition of the underbelly of politics and the dream of a candidate who does the right thing but for its uncovering of the secrets that real, everyday people keep in order to move their lives forward. The story never lags, and just when you think you know what will happen something occurs that will keep you reading. The characters in the book are believable and you’ll find yourself rooting for first one, then the other.
I normally don’t like political books but this one is so much more. The human qualities of the characters are first and foremost while the political backdrop is just that – a stage where the human story is played out. This is one novel I’d like to see made into a movie. I look forward to more from author J. Mark Powell.