Tuesday, August 4, 2009

REVIEW: This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper


This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper. Published 2009 by Dutton/Penguin.

Click here to buy This Is Where I Leave You from your favorite indie bookstore.

This is Where I Leave You is to my mind the ideal beach book. It's raucously funny, raunchy and bittersweet and it's an effortless, effervescent novel I read in a couple of days.

The story concerns one Judd Foxman, a married man in his mid-thirties whose wife has just left him for his boss, a radio shock jock. Judd's father has also just died, and author Jonathan Tropper uses the Jewish ritual of the shiva, a formal seven day mourning period, as the narrative framework. Judd's mother insists that his father's dying wish was that his not-particularly-religious family perform the ritual so this rowdy group- Judd's mother, sister, and brother, along with their spouses, children and baggage- has to put up with each other and survive a week of very close proximity.

It's a great set up for a dysfunctional family comedy and Tropper delivers both laughs and pathos in roughly equal measure but the laughs are what I'll remember the most. Judd deals with his humiliation and bereavement through self-deprecating sarcasm and self-loathing:
To have nothing when you're twenty is cool, it's expected, but to have nothing when you're halfway to seventy, softening and widening on a daily basis, is something altogether different. It's like setting out to drive cross-country without any gas money. I will look back at this time and see it as the start of a slow process that ends with me dying alone after living out my days in an empty apartment with only the television and a slow, waddling dog to keep me company, the kind of place that will smell stale to visitors, but not to me, since the stale thing will be me.
It's not an entirely dismal picture- at least he has a dog and visitors, right?

Along the way Judd and his family learn some things about each other and themselves, but there are no clear resolutions and when the family parts ways there's only a slight sense that anything has changed. But that's okay, because I think the point of This is Where I Leave You is to make you laugh and any lessons are delivered with a spoonful of sugar, some irreverence and a wink or two. If you like family comedies, this light, fun, well-crafted novel will be the perfect addition to your beach bag this summer.

RATING: BEACH

You can also read Susan's review at Bagels, Books & Schmooze.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

14 comments:

Charley said...

I like the title and cover. I'll keep this book in mind for my lunch breaks.

bermudaonion said...

What a great premise for a book - I'll be looking for this one.

debnance said...

I've been trying to find a funny book this summer....Will check this out....

Carolina Gal's Literary Cafe said...

This has to be the funniest book I have read. I usually don't read books like this. I just never looked for them. It is a blast to read from the first page. I was reading this in the DR's office. I had to sit there for three hours. All the clients were staring because I could not control my laughter at times. How embarrassing!! Would't you say. I highly recommend it as well.

Carolina Gal's Literary Cafe said...

This has to be the funniest book I have read. I usually don't read books like this. I just never looked for them. It is a blast to read from the first page. I was reading this in the DR's office. I had to sit there for three hours. All the clients were staring because I could not control my laughter at times. How embarrassing!! Would't you say. I highly recommend it as well.

S. Krishna said...

This definitely sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the review!

stacybuckeye said...

You make it sound like so much fun. It's found its way on my wishlist.

Marie said...

Susan, sometimes at work I mind the library while the daily minyan takes place in a small alcove; I was reading this during the service one day and had to hold my hand over my mouth to keep from bursting out laughing while they were davening. It was kind of funny. :-)

ANovelMenagerie said...

Definitely BUY! I am also giving away a copy at my blog this week!

Jew Wishes said...

What an excellent review, Marie!

Anna said...

I love me some good family drama. You've just added to my to-read list. :) Thanks for the review.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Amy said...

I've heard good things about this book. After reading your review, I'm going to have to read it!

-Amy
(Life by Candelight)

Nymeth said...

I was sold the other day when you mentioned this was the funniest book you'd read in a while, but I want to read it even more now!

Zibilee said...

Ok, you got me with that quote. This book is going to the top of the wish list. It sounds like it has some great humor in it, and I am always looking for a book that makes me laugh. Great review, and great choice of quote!