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New Book Review: “This Is Where I Leave You”

July 29, 2009

tropper-index-9One of my better grabs from BookExpo was a copy of  Jonathan Tropper‘s new novel.  Remarkably, I have already finished it, a scant 2 months after receiving it.  Sure, that may not seem like a big deal.  But let’s be honest here…I have galleys from YEARS of BookExpos littering every corner of my house.  I used to read a lot more before kids, and thankfully I am slowing getting back into that groove. 

This Is Where I Leave You” will be published next month, giving me the thrill of being able to say to all you newcomers that I read the book BEFORE it was even on store shelves.  But I won’t.  That’s not really the way we roll around here.  OK, so when the brew-haha with Oprah and Jonathan Franzen came out around “The Corrections“, I will admit that I proudly showed off my galley copy as a sign of literary geek cred.   No bragging on this one, though. 

So, let’s get to this story, shall we?  In “This Is Where I Leave You,” our protagonist Judd Foxman is a pushing 40 kinda guy who one day decides to surprise his wife on her birthday by coming home early from work.  Of course, work has decided to surprise him, as his boss, a Howard Stern-esque shock jock has been having an affair with his wife for the better part of the last year and he catches them in the act.   Let’s just say that the first chapter is better read without the kids around.  It’s pretty raunchy but laugh out loud funny.

Anyhow, this leads to the breakup of the Foxman marriage.  Jen, his wife, gets the house, and Judd has to move out into a hovel.  Thanks to the relationship of his boss with his wife, he also loses his job.

It is at this point that Judd’s father passes away, leaving him and his mom and 3 siblings to begin the mourning process by sitting shiva for a week. 

Sure, we’ve seen the dysfunctional family thrown together by circumstances beyond their control story before.  There is something screenplay ready about this (and yes, movie rights have been sold) but there are moments where Tropper’s writing makes things seem fresh and new.  Of course, you may be like me and find yourself  “casting” all the parts as you go through the book.  On the other hand, you may not have time to get that deep, as the characters come at you fast and furiously – with 3 siblings, each with a partner, as well as friends and neighbors in the mix, you almost feel like you need a Garcia Marquez-style chart to keep track of everyone and their relationships. 

There are some geniunely funny moments mixed with true pathos – a lesser writer might not have been able to pull that off as well as Tropper did.  It did feel fresh and clear, as he took some characters that you really shouldn’t like and made you care for them.  My biggest letdown was the ending – it left me rereading the last few chapters wondering where the resolution was, and whether I missed it.

But overall, it’s a read that I do recommend.  I want to go back and read more Tropper – I already read “The Book of Joe” but I’ve heard people who have read others and really liked him.  I do believe that this will be his breakout book, and certainly hope it leads more people to explore his back catalog.

One Comment leave one →
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