Thursday, March 31, 2011
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