Thursday, March 31, 2011

This is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper


This book and I have a little history. I had it on my must list ever since Entertainment Weekly rated it as one of the top reads of 2009. Then lo and behold, I won a SIGNED copy from Sheri at A Novel Menagerie! But then there the book sat for months and months and months, and I felt compelled to donate it to our Adult Literacy League silent auction last spring. Then I had donation regret and bought it back. (I'm one sick puppy I know.) And thanks to the delightful TBR Dare this year, I plucked it right of the shelf and finally gave it the attention it deserved. And of course I loved it. This seems to be the way it works.

Synopsis: Judd Foxman has just caught his beloved wife in the marriage bed with his boss, which ended with a destroyed marriage, a lost job and testicle flambe. (Don't ask.) The icing on the cake is a phone call from his mother, informing him that his atheist father has passed, and his dying wish was that the family sit Shiva for him. Or in other words, Judd has to spend a week with a family he cannot stand for even an hour.

Thus begins the ultimate experience in dysfunction...his elderly mother who has a curious relationship with the widow neighbor, a brother who holds a grudge over a childhood accident, the sister-in-law who is trying to conceive and can't, a sister with two loud children and a workaholic self-absorbed husband, and the deadbeat brother who brings along a much older girlfriend. There are Nosy Parker's trying to fix up Judd, the widower who tries to cop a feel from Judd's mom, the old girlfriends, the old high school buddies...all encroach to contribute to a living, breathing anxiety attack waiting to happen.

Charmingly though, as these exercises in chaos are wont to do, olive branches are extended, enlightenment occurs, and the book, for all its laugh-out-loud insanity, becomes heart-warming and good for what ails you. It is the kind of family dysfunction that seems almost a nice change of pace.

My thoughts: Despite all the hype and the potential for bloated expectations, this book was more fun than should be legal. I think I read 85% of it with a bit shit-eating grin on my face. I don't know what Tropper is like in person, but his prose is wicked sarcastic, self-deprecating, rapid-fire and raunchy, with a comedic flair that had me bust out laughing on nearly every page. But just to show that he is a multi-layered kinda guy with a heart, he also delves into complicated family dynamics, the pain of loss, and the importance of forgiveness.

And for once, I am ahead of the game, because I believe the movie is in the making as we speak, with Tropper penning the screenplay. IMDb lists it as a 2011 release, but it doesn't appear anyone has been cast, so hopefully it won't fall prey to budget cuts. I'm slightly optimistic with Tropper in charge of script, but I feel the movie could be trouble because...

...messed up family get-togethers have been the subject of countless books and movies, and frankly, most of them flop for me. I see them and inwardly groan "not another one". (Funny because I was reading this at the same time as The Weird Sisters, another messed up family get-together! I started to get them confused!) What makes this one any different from the throngs of the mediocre? Without a doubt, it is Tropper's writing. Books aren't normally so "on", but this one was, and propelled me through it in a couple of days. No easy feat.

So just read it. You won't be disappointed.

5 out of 5 stars



19 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

You've sold me! I'll keep an eye out for a copy and ensure I read it before the movie is released.

Julie P. said...

This was a huge book at BEA and I never got around to reading it. Your review has convinced me to go back.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I loved this so much more than The Weird Sisters! I think Tropper is so good at making readers want to stay with dysfunctional families instead of throwing the book down and saying, "this is where I leave you!"

Zibilee said...

Now I want to add this one to my list! It sounds as if it was really quirky and it reminds me a little of The Believers, which I also loved. I am big into heavily sarcastic and unusual reads, so I don't know how I have let this one pass for so long without picking it up, but your recommendation is just what I needed to give me the go-ahead. Thanks, Sandy!

JoAnn said...

OK, I will. Sounds like a perfect vacation book!

Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

Oh my goodness, what a funny history you and this book have. I can seriously see myself doing something like that. I remember wanting to read this book when I first heard about it and then never got around to it and forgot completely about it. Thank you for reminding me. Adding it to my list today.

bermudaonion said...

I've been meaning to read this one ever since I interviewed an older author and she raved about it. You've made me wish I could drop everything and get to it.

Avid Reader said...

Bahaha, you bought it back. That's hilarious and sounds like something I would do. This one has been on my TBR for too long, so I'll have to pick it up soon.

Ti said...

I love movies and books about messed-up families. Have you ever seen Home for the Holidays and The Family Stone?

I've never read this book though or anything else by Tropper but it sounds like something I'd like.

Trisha said...

Dammit I have to read this man....

Jenny said...

Great review and I completely agree! I didn't know it was going to be a movie until you posted in the comments. I'm always iffy with movies but if he is doing the screenplay then I'm more hopeful!

Jenners said...

I loved this one too and got a whole bunch of other Tropper books to read...of course they have been sitting there ever since.

caite said...

5 out of 5...and testicle flambe?
wow, I need to read this one..lol

Alice Teh said...

I ought to read this, I reckon, after reading what you said about it.

I've been in a reading slump so deep I am having difficulty climbing out.

Swapna said...

Great review! I was DESPERATE for this book when it came out. I simply had to have it and bought it pretty quickly after it came out. And it's been sitting on my shelf ever since. I suppose I should get to it soon.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Your reviews always make me chuckle - I want to read a book that inspires a shit-eating grin throughout most of it.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU is not yet on my shelves, but I've added it to my wish list. Sounds like a good book to read as I prep for Easter dinner here with my extended family.

Kathleen said...

I'm convinced! I know based on your description that I will love this one. I'm adding it to my list. I've got to read The Weird Sisters too. I can't really resist books that deal with family dysfunction.

Iliana said...

Awesome review! I have this one but was assuming it was going to be all bittersweet. Sounds like it has quite an edge to it and that's kind of nice in an unexpected way! I better read it before the movie comes out :)

Melissa said...

There is a time when dysfunction is perfect! And I love the fact that you donated this and then bought it back!!