Lighter Fare

For this week’s book, I’ve chosen something a little less sinister and dark (although no less depressing at times, I’m afraid) in Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You. I’d been hearing for weeks from various sources that this was a good book (true) and that Jonathan Tropper’s writing style was similar to that of Chuck Palahniuk (not so true).  It’s a book that really showcases how love can at times be simultaneously glorious and deadening, not to mention the depth of Tropper’s characters.

The story is told from the perspective of Judd Foxman, a man dealing with both a divorce and the death of his father, who is forced to return home to sit shiva with his dysfunctional family per his father’s dying request.  There, we are introduced to his hotheaded older brother, Paul, his snarky sister, Wendy, and the family screw-up, his baby brother Phillip, along with his mother, a renowned psychologist and relationship expert.  The tension is immense, particularly when coupled with Judd’s misery over the loss of his wife, who had an affair with his boss.  However, things get particularly demanding when Judd’s wife shows up to his parents’ home with his boss soon to follow.

Again, I must mention the depth and emotional complexity of these characters.  Judd is painfully relatable, and the nuances of long-term relationships and family tension are spot-on.  You can really feel the weight of his situation and you find yourself truly concerned for all of the characters, all of whom are honest and real.

To address the issue of similarity between Chuck Palahniuk that I’d been hearing about:  there is a similarity in that both authors pepper their writing with dark humor.  But Tropper doesn’t have that Palahniukian esotericism–those nuggets of insider information and disgusting details as told by loser characters you’re generally inclined to hate (I consider this a compliment toward Palahniuk, by the way).  Jonathan Tropper uses humor and honest emotion to connect you with the characters, which make you laugh and give you pause even if the plot can be pretty stock at times.

There is more to the story that I’m reluctant to give away for fear of ruining anything, but I will say this:  if you like humorous novels with incredible characters who must deal with overwhelming emotional struggles, this should be right up your alley.

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