Melancholy Donkey

Praise for Becoming Phoebe

Winner of the Bronze Medal for Best Regional Fiction – 2016 Independent Publishers Book Awards

Featured review in the February 2016 Kirkus Review

Neal’s decision to explore Phoebe’s life in a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards . . . turns out to be a brilliant stroke of storytelling. . . . [An] emotionally gripping narrative. . . . A triumphant tale of surviving abuse, embracing hockey, and finding love.

Reviewed on BC Interruption, the SB Nation site for Boston College Sports

“It’s the type of novel I never would have reached for on my own, and I’m really happy to have had the pleasure of diving into the world J. Michael Neal created to develop his Phoebe.” – Grant Salzano

Publisher’s Read at McWood Publishing

“Author J. Michael Neal does a phenomenal job of creating original, emotionally complex characters whose experiences tug at the reader’s heartstrings. His first person narrative is extremely well-developed, and the protagonist’s strong personality and unwavering perseverance is inspiring to read. Filled with thoughtfully constructed flashbacks interspersed with unique, realistic experiences, this novel is rich in depth and raw human emotion.” – B. Smart

17 5-star reviews at

Becoming Phoebe” is a page-turner of a book. There are many sensitive and delicate issues within the story which the author handles with great care and understanding. Through a series of flashbacks, you come to feel a real connection with Phoebe and have a genuine sense of love for her, and a will for her to become the woman that deep down she really is.” – Whispering Stories

“A super read that is unlike anything I have read before, will certainly add this author to my one to watch list.” – Books Laid Bare

“This was a book I put most everything aside for. I was sorry to see it end.” – KayK

“Neal tells his story in a fascinating non-linear fashion, as the tale jumps back and forth through time, giving us insights into Phoebe’s past and hints about her future. It’s a great way to tell the story, and combined with the outstanding and realistic characters, it gives us an uncommonly wonderful story about hockey, growing up, and discovering who you really are.” – Scott Slemmons

 Marissa Lingen, Author of Dragon Brother and Other Stories

Becoming Phoebe, like its protagonist, jumps in right away and never quits for even a minute. . . . J. Michael Neal’s love of hockey shines through on every page—and so does a profound caring for young people trying to find their way in the world through difficult life circumstances.