The Bear in a Muddy Tutu
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The Bear in a Muddy Tutu

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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  108 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Lennon Bagg's daughter has been stolen away by his ex-wife, and he's just learned the newspaper he reports for is bankrupt. While on his final assignment, Bagg knocks a policeman unconscious to save the life of a runaway circus bear, and suddenly finds himself responsible for a band of stranded roustabouts who've pitched their tents on a small island along the New Jersey s...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published February 20th 2011 by Camel Press (first published February 16th 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 414)
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Regan Leigh
I actually reviewed Cole's book early on for my blog.
(Disclaimer: I am his writing partner and friend, so yes I may be biased. Then again, I would only want the best for a writing partner.)

Here are some of the comments I made on my blog. The entire review is too long to paste here.

- I loved Cole's writing voice from day one and I knew immediately that he'd be published. And soon. Just ask him. I was annoyingly optimistic and pushy.

- Reading The Bear in a Muddy Tutu is like running away with...more
LK Gardner-Griffie

Who could resist a title like The Bear In A Muddy Tutu? Certainly not me. Then I glanced at a few sample pages and I was hooked. The beginning of the book was strongly evocative of Peter Hedge's What's Eating Gilbert Grape? with perhaps the characters of Gilbert and Arnie rolled into one. Not that I am saying Alpaugh cribbed anything. I just knew from the introduction of Billy Wayne Hooduk, as he ran away from his domineering, morbidly obese, piece-of-work mother at the age of thirty to become a

...more
Nancy Starn
In a nutshell: loser (thirty-something) guy finds a book on how to become a cult leader and moves out of his mother's house on a quest to cultivate followers. Shower scene flashback is bizarre. Like watching a car crash. Oh, there is an actual car crash later on that is one of the most memorable parts of the book. Also happening, a reporter for a newspaper about to close down goes out on a lead about a bear attack at a golf course. He saves the bear from a messed-up cop and returns it to the tra...more
Donna Semanski
Quirky, crazy, disgusting, and sad are the words that came to mind after finishing this very unusual book. It was recommended to me by our elderly librarian, who claimed to have read and found it charming. I think she may have been confused. The story is about a train wreck of a man who escapes the grasp of his domineering mother. Also unfolding is the tale of a soon to be out of work newspaper reporter, as well as a doomed traveling circus. The writing is flat out great. I felt myself being led...more
Rhiannon Ellis
A deftly written story driven by raw and vivid characters and rich with evocative language and colorful descriptions. With every page another layer is peeled back as this fascinating, magical tale unfolds--sad or humorous, but always thoughtful. Alpaugh's writing does not rely on cheap tricks or predictable plot points, but slowly pulls you in and compels you to stick around for a while. Rest assured, in The Bear in a Muddy Tutu, you will constantly be surprised by what happens next. --Rhiannon...more
Clarissa
I loved this book! It was really great how each person's path and story comes together in the end (even half a world away). Each character was well-defined, even the Gracie.... Adults will love this book, may not be enough action for teenagers.
Jill Furedy
Starting off the book with Billy Wayne's story, I wasn't sure how much I would like it. I wasn't fond of Billy...I felt a little bad for him, but the idea of starting his own cult seemed bound to lead to no good. Especially with how he begins his adventures. I didn't really want to follow him through one idiotic mistake after another and his total naivete. But then we meet Gracie, whom you can't help but love, and Slim, then the Bagg family, and then I had to see how it would all come together....more
Cheryl Lee
This was a new arrival on our library shelf Wednesday morning. The title and first few pages grabbed my attention, and then I couldn't put it down. I like stories told from multiple points of view, but usually pick a favorite and tend to rush through the rest. But with this book each shift from character to character moved the story at an almost frantic pace, even when one character is sitting still and trying to be invisible. The writer challenges you to decide what is real and what are figment...more
Susan
This was a wonderful book, written by a man who could easily be related to John Irving. His writing is magical, as was this story. I was captivated by the characters, drawn in by the story and am thrilled to report I had no idea how it would all turn out. The bits of sadness were, if not welcome, necessary to the plot. He has a true talent for description and for transporting the reader to every locale - from the salty New Jersey shore to the pristine waters of Bermuda. What a joy to read a book...more
Shawn Powell


This book was 4 stars for me right up until the end. I LOVED the ending. I don't care one iota if what happened at the end was remotely plausible, it was MAGICAL. All of the characters encountered here were so unusual and different and fascinating and tragic! From the wanna-be cult leader to the dancing circus bear (LOVED her!) to the grieving newspaper reporter whose daughter was stolen away from him 5 years prior, to his daughter, on a quest to find her beloved father (who might be a bird), t...more
Captain M
From the first page to the last this novel's zany characters and situations are fit for a book with such a unique title. The bear who goes by Gracie will win your heart and keep it moments after she is introduced. While the majority of the plot lines are dark situations, the writing is brilliant and keeps you hopeful for the characters long after they have given up themselves. A testament to the wonderful storytelling is the perfect ending, where you don't realize until long after you've shut th...more
Susan (susayq ~)
This book reminded me of the movie Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill. You know, one of those where you have a whole slew of characters that you get snippets of the overall story from everyone's point of view and you wonder how they're all going to come together.

About mid-way through I couldn't put the book down cause I just had to know if Lennon would ever find his daughter and how on earth he'd get to her if he did. Let's just say I'm glad I didn't quit reading :)
Blair
A good, dark, quirky book. It's kind of all over the place. A cast of characters all on the run from their past meet together in a travelling circus. There they find acceptance and the encouragement to confront their demons. Wonderfully written with very few sluggish sections.
Kathy
Okay, I started this book with anticipation because it seemed to get good reviews. The first chapter was so wierd and I did not like the character. And that character seemed to feature in many pages following. Isn't it good to know that even I have my limitations!
Paula
A wonderful, magical story that is sad, humourous and often very witty about a group of social misfits both human and animal. The story ends too soon. Highly recommend.
Julie
A boy on the verge of manhood finds a book on starting a cult. As e follows the advice in the book, he finds a circus. What better place to try his new occupation?
Jerry
Liked but didn't love this book. Of all the characters, Lennon was really the only one even slightly likeable and sympathetic as opposed to just pathetic.
Lynn
That was friggin awesome. Yes, I have a college degree and I have stooped to less than acceptable language. But it's the truth!
Becky
I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky, unexpected book. The author's ability to pull together disparate storylines is amazing.
Beth
Couldn't get past page 40...maybe I'm in the wrong frame of mind...will try again another day.
Carol
Good fun read. Had to censor my review due to spoilers. After you read it, let's discuss.
Margaret Hall
really enjoyed this book! end was kind of cheesy, but definitely worth reading!!
Beth
A nice little book about a bear and a circus (among other things).
Carol Martinez
Quirky and fun. I'll look for more from Mr. Alpaugh.
Diana Eberhardt
Scattered but sweet.
Janet Kroll
A wonderful book.
Jess
Jess marked it as to-read
Apr 22, 2014
Maggie
Maggie marked it as to-read
Apr 21, 2014
Hollie
Hollie marked it as to-read
Apr 21, 2014
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Cole Alpaugh began his newspaper career in the early 1980's, at a daily paper on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where he covered everything from bake sales to KKK meetings. He moved on to a paper in Massachusetts to specialize in feature essays, where his stories on a Hispanic youth gang and the life of a Golden Gloves boxer won national awards. His most recent newspaper job was at a large daily in Cen...more
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“And there was nothing quite like the surprise attack of a snarling black bear, even one missing all forty-two teeth, to urge someone back to work. Waking up with several hundred mud-encrusted, reeking pounds on top of you — your neck suffering a hickey of epic proportions — just pushed the limits on what was tolerable.” 2 likes
“Taking a couple short backup swigs, Flint’s crippling headache started to release its grip, sort of the way he imagined an octopus would release an inedible bowling ball.” 2 likes
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