Somehow, Jonathan Tropper’s NYT bestselling novel, This Is Where I Leave You, had escaped my notice, or at least until recently. I started reading about the movie version, which Tropper adapted and which opens in September, and I figured I’d better get on this. The movie stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda, among many others.
But back to the novel. Tropper has managed to craft a story that’s a true comedy-drama. It’s so funny at times, particularly the dialogue, and so painfully poignant. Not easy to pull off for any author, but I’m now a huge fan of Tropper’s. I loved this book. Loved. It.
It’s the story of the Foxman family, a crew of non-observant Jews who find themselves sitting shiva after the family patriarch dies. The narrator is Judd, one of the Foxman sons, whose wife Jen has been having an affair with his boss, a shock jock in the Howard Stern tradition. His world rocked by both Jen’s infidelity and his father’s death, Judd trudges off to spend a week with his mother and siblings with whom he doesn’t exactly get along. His older brother Paul holds a lifelong grudge against him. His younger brother Phillip is a charming liar who can never be trusted. And his sister Wendy slings one-liners at him like nobody’s business. And then there’s their mother, a sexy author of parenting books who has a secret love life that stuns everybody.
Along the way there are old friends and girlfriends who resurface and neighbors who show up to pay condolences and Jen, Judd’s perfidious wife, who announces she’s pregnant with his kid.
Oh, the complications.
There are so many twists and turns in this story and Judd takes us through all of them with his uniquely sardonic voice that’s both screamingly hilarious and heartbreakingly sad.
Publishers Weekly said of Tropper in its review, “he has the ability to create touchingly human characters and a deliciously page-turning story.” Yup, he does and he did. I’m already on to his latest, One Last Thing Before I Go.