Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

(Acknowledgements: Thanks R.L. for letting me read your early copy!)

I have enjoyed every single one of Tropper's books and I consider him one of "my authors." But I think I can easily proclaim that this is his best work yet.  I love that this story revolves around a dysfunctional family (my favorite topic to read about!), and that it approaches the experience of a death in the family through a unique lens.

At various points in the novel, I stopped to savour Tropper's language.  His writing is infused with humor at every turn, and yet the flow of his sentences are  incredibly poetic.  Every chapter opening earns its way into the book.  It all begins: "'Dad's dead,' Wendy says offhandedly, like it's happened before, like it happens every day."  With the offhanded comment of an unfazed sister, we tumble into the Foxman's family's affairs.

At many moments, the book is simply the protagonist, Judd, telling his own story, speaking directly to you with his eyes bowed and his full emotion stuck in his throat.  His voice is so real, his character so developed. We all know Judd Foxman.  He is the Jewish Every Twenty-Something Man.  He explains to the reader: 

Love made us partners in narcism, and we talked ceaselessly about how close we were, 
how perfect our connection was, like we were the first people in history to ever get it exactly right. We were that couple for a while, nauseatingly impervious assholes, busy staring each other's eyes while everyone else was trying to have a good time.  When I think about how stupid we were, how obstinately clueless about the realities that awaited us, I just want to back to that skinny, cocksure kid with his bloated hear and perennial erection, and kick his teeth in.

Judd is pure male.  He is constantly thinking about sex.  And while the book is graphic I wasn't put off at all. 

Tropper has such a keen eye for the absurdities and complexities of modern life.  His depictions of Shiva calls are spot on and hilarious. His creation of a mother who penned the seminal books on childcare with a brood of children full of problems is both realistic and wildly entertaining.  His introduction of a shock jock boss (named Wade Boulanger!), and a rabbi whose childhood nickname was Boner, as well as his inclusion of miscarriages, infidelity, dog maulings, late in life lesbianism, a family friend who was severely brain damaged by a college fight all make the book incredibly entertaining and so refreshingly real.

There is so much more I want to say about this novel. But I will just say this: I highly recommend it!

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