Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (@Jtropper)

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Publication Date: August 6, 2009
Published: Orion

My Rating:

The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family—including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister—have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public.
Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.
As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant.
This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper's most accomplished work to date, a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind—whether we like it or not.

After three years I've revisited this book with fond memories of liking it... a lot. This was my very short review then:

"Laugh-out-loud book, slightly flawed by cliched characters. This was the first Jonathan Tropper I read and wasn't disappointed. The fast pace and witty prose left me wanting more."

While I still stand by those words, the clich├ęd characters bothered me a little more this time around. Perhaps it's because I've aged, or maybe just where I am in life, but Judd Foxman, you are a donkey-hole. No surprise, however, seeing as the rest of your family seemed to be cut from the same mold.

Let's back track. Judd's father has passed away, and though he wasn't religious, his dying wish was for his dysfunctional family to sit shiva. Despite the fact that Judd's homeless and jobless, and even though his marriage is in the toilet, he sets off to his childhood home in Elmsbrook, NY to oblige.

What I was expecting when I first read this I'm not sure. I remember hearing it was funny, which it was. There was bound to be drama, which there was. But those two things alone don't often carry a story. What carried This is Where I Leave You seemed to be shock value. You never knew what would happen or pop out of someone's mouth or who they would fall onto (or into) next.

Immediately we're introduced to an array of characters. Wendy, Paul, Phillip, and their significant others - Judd's siblings, who each have their respective issues. Jen - Judd's adulteress wife. Wade - the man she's sleeping with and Judd's old boss. Penny - Judd's kinda, but not really, ex. Judd's mother, her neighbor, and the neighbor's son. Boner, the rabbi (and my favorite character).

Each of these characters adds something to the story, though, I wouldn't always count that something good. The narrative didn't always paint them in the nicest light. Even outsiders were judged harshly, unless they were kids or the numerous women Judd fell in love with on his daily quest to hate himself and everyone around him more than he already did.

This quote was one among many that Judd used to describe the people who had been in his life at one point or another. This particular character happened to be his childhood best friend.

"At some point in time, Greg gave up on things and accepted his fate to spend the rest of his life fat and exhausted and dull as a butter knife."

I don't know. I just wasn't a fan of Judd's mindset.

The ending did make up for a lot of the bad behavior in the story, however. Judd mended some broken relationships and ended up more hopeful than I expected.

"At some point, being angry is just another bad habit, like smoking, and you keep poisoning yourself without thinking about it."
This is a book about rich people, with rich people problems. This is Where I Leave You is an on-the-surface read, that entertains. I may not have found the characters relatable, but did enjoy reading about their lives. It will probably do well on the big screen, as a comedy. The casting couldn't have been more spot on. I know I plan to see it, and any other movies that come out of Jonathan Tropper's work.

1 comment:

  1. I've been going back and forth on reading this one before I see the movie. From what you're saying I'm thinking it might work better for me in movie form. I think I may end up watching the movie and then trying the book if I love it. Have a great week!