This is Where I Leave You is a wonderful book will make you laugh out loud and bring tears to your eyes--truly an incandescent story about love of all kinds and forgiveness.
Judd Foxman is separated and heading towards divorce, unemployed, and living in a basement apartment, all of which are directly related to the affair his wife Jen is having with Wade, Judd's boss. Then Judd's father dies of cancer, leaving a final request that his entire family sit seven days of Shiva, and Judd and his siblings return to the suburban home where they grew up.
During the seven days of mourning, a variety of family dynamics play out. The relationship between Judd and his brother Paul is dominated by old resentment, and awkwardness with the fact that Paul's wife is one of Judd's past high-school girlfriends. Judd's sister Wendy takes the opportunity of being home to reconnect with her past love, while Phillip, the baby of the family and chronic screw-up, brings home his much older fiancé. Judd's mother Hillary is a psychiatrist who wrote a bestselling book about parenting, and her infamous directness adds more tension and humor.
While grieving for his father, Judd is also immersed in feelings of anger, betrayal, and helplessness brought on by the affair between Jen, his wife, and Wade, his boss. Once Jen tells Judd she is pregnant, Judd refuses to speak with her, leading both Jen and Wade to show up at Judd's childhood home, adding more complications and stress.
It would spoil too much of the story to tell more about any of the funny parts, but there are many throughout the book. Simultaneously, the book is bittersweet as the family mourns the Dad they loved and take small steps to mending their own relationships. This is Where I Leave You is exceptionally well written with great character development and emotion, and is a book that deserves to be read by everyone.
on July 9, 2009
My wife handed me this book saying it was a *must read*. I started it immediately and found I could not put it down. "This is Where I Leave You" has to be the most intense, funny, true to life piece of literature I have read in years. It is not only funny, but "laugh out loud" funny. In this novel, Tropper's writing style is sharp, biting, smart, sentimental, funny, and tender. He envisions the world the way most of us do, and expresses life with incredible wit and honesty.
The story begins with the death of Mort Foxman. His death has reunited the Foxman clan for a week of sitting shiva. In the course of battling their own demons, and one another, each family member is called to reflect upon life events that have formed the basis of their lives together and their subsequent identities as individuals. The results are hilarious. I've heard that this book has already been optioned for a movie. With the right casting this story should prove to be an exceptional cinematic experience.
Tropper mines old themes with his new book, This is Where I Leave You. Love relationship with college soul mate? Check. Father whose love is silent and unspoken and strong? Check. Sex with old high school fantasy? Check. Issue with athletic brother and other sibling rivalries? Check. I could go on.
I've been a fan since Plan B. Tropper writes with warmth and insight and great, great humor. Some scenes are hysterically funny. This is Where I Leave You is par for the course. As long as he keeps writing lines like, "Penny's honesty has always been like nudity in an action movie: gratuitous but no less welcome for it" and shows an old friend who has become a rabbi warming up the congregation like he's in a rock venue ("What's up, everyone?" he says. "Good shabbos, Elmsbrook!"), he'll always have a follower in me.
In this variant on a theme, the protagonist, Judd, is sitting shiva for his father with his neurotic, somewhat bizarre family: his strong-willed therapist mother, his older, once star athlete brother, his sexually adventurous sister, and the baby of the family who is the classically spoiled screwup.
Judd has other problems--he's jobless and more-or-less homeless, as his wife has cheated on him with his prior boss.
How Tropper makes his story funny and hopeful is a sight to see. One change in this book is the thick haze of sexual obsession that permeates it. Is that what "breakout novel" means now? If so, you could do worse than read This is Where I Leave You. Three and a half stars...
on August 12, 2014
The writing style is polished and there are some nuggets of insight, but the narrator's/authors attitude towards women turned my stomach. I include the narrator in the complaint because it seemed that other characters were used as sock-puppets to echo his overgeneralized, outdated stereotypes, even when it didn't seem cogent for the given character to climb atop that particular soapbox. Either the women were too old, or too fat, or too promiscuous, if not some mixture of all three. He is particularly obsessed with female youthfulness. The kindest thing that was said about any women over eighteen was that she was "well-preserved." And I wouldn't mind, except that the male characters, while not necessarily glorified, are treated with much more nuance and generosity. I can understand why his wife looked elsewhere for love, if her husband was brimming with resentment for her being merely supermodel-hot but not immortally so, which the constant obsession with and vilification of senescence in the first-person narration would suggest. Perhaps her current man does not resent her having the audacity to age.
on March 7, 2010
I'd never read anything by Tropper before, nor heard of him. So it was with some trepidation that I picked up this book. I am so so glad I did! It's funny, insightful, thought-provoking and sad. I fell in love with all the characters in this book. Tropper has a gift for making the characters extremely three-dimensional,and you'll find yourself laughing and crying right along with them. One of the most "human" books I have ever read, and one of those rare gems that make you never want to get to the last page. Wonderful!
on November 28, 2009
I am a Kindle user and used the Kindle to look up NYTimes best sellers. I read the first 3 chapters as a sample and I have not laughed that hard since my first Dave Barry book! What an excellent writer Tropper is! The story itself has merit and depth, but his delivery is what makes this book fantastic! How someone could take a death and turn it into a real life (honestly, I know families that are like what he described, don't most of us!?) story I could not put down, is amazing. I honestly have not laughed out loud at a book like this in years! This guy takes you inside his head, which is clearly a mix of insanity, curiosity, random, and with some darkness yet VERY cleverly walks you through 7 very interesting days with his family. I then went back and read "Book of Joe", and "Everything Changes", but clearly "This is where I leave you" is the best I read of his works, making me a fan and waiting for the next book.
on August 15, 2014
I wanted to like this book, I really did! This title has been on my radar for some time and, since the movie version will be out soon , I thought I'd better put it at the top of my TBR list.
The good part of it, for me, was that I think the overarching store--a family coming together to sit Shiva for their faither--could make a good movie. However, I think that a number of, ahem, liberties would have to be made for that to happen. Frankly, the book just didn't live up to the promise.
I think it was from James Joyce's Ulysses where the idea that a man thinks about sex once every 11 seconds comes. Idon't know if that is true, but I think Tropper is trying to prove that in this book. Everything thought from Judd, the main character, seems to be about sex. The characters seem to talk only about sex. It's all just sex--and not really "mature" sex. Instead, it seems more like teenaged boy sex--which would be fine if this book were about a teenaged boy. But it's not. It's about adults--although I guess an argument can be made that these characters are teenagers stuck in adults' bodies.
I also was never really sure what this book was about. Is it about Judd and his family? Judd and his unfaithful wife? Judd and the girl who got away? This book was going so many directions at once that I always felt unmoored in it.
Tropper is a readable writer and there were some funny (in a potty-humor sort of way) parts in this book. But, ultimately, it was disappointment.
on October 28, 2011
The title for my review tells you exactly what I was saying out loud throughout the reading of this book. The book club I belong to chose this book for discussion. This is the only reason I completed the read. If I had picked it up on my own, I would have put it down after the first few pages and saved myself from the exhaustion of slogging through.
There is one good sentence in the entire novel: "If we ever stopped to think about the infinite number of ways we could be undone, we'd never leave our bedrooms." Page 295. This sentence could have taken on a larger life had the author taken the time to really delve in to the characters and given us insight into the tragedies that seem to have befallen them.
Instead we are insufferably exposed to their crass mistreatment of one another. The way in which the female characters of the novel are reduced to body parts, weeping and wisecracks is not only offensive, it's not even funny. The men aren't given a much better treatment, since they can't seem to focus on anything but sex and fist fighting. It's just awful.. all of it.
Save your precious reading time and choose another book.
on December 15, 2009
I am not usually the lone voice of dissent on books, but on this one I am. I bought it after reading all of the great reviews. I found the whole thing to be just a little too clever for its own good, like I was reading a script for a movie rather than a novel. "Look at his wacky mother! Isn't she hilarious!?!" "Oh no, here comes that crazy little brother of his . . . what zaniness will ensue now?!" I really wanted to like this book, and I am disappointed that I didn't enjoy it that much.
on December 26, 2009
This book is about Judd, a 35-ish year old man whose atheist father's dying wish is that his dysfunctional family sit Shiva after his death. A few weeks before his father's death Judd walked in on his own wife having sex with his boss, so Judd spends the book mourning his father's death and the end of his marriage.
This book is like the relationships it chronicles: easy to be charmed with, until you scratch the surface. Then you realize that you have a front seat view of a man with the libido and emotional depth of an immature 16 year old male.
When Judd mourns his 9 year old marriage, the only meaningful interactions he relates from his marriage throughout the whole book are: the day his wife and he met and how beautiful she looked, how he always worried about how other men might steal her from him because of her beauty, what sex was like, and how they argued, oh, and how beautiful she always looked. Meanwhile, Judd fantasizes about having sex, compulsively it seems, with almost every woman in the book, whether it be a woman driving past him in a car, or the teller at a bank. (I read this book on my Kindle, and, out of curiosity, I did a search on the word "ass" - because it seemed to be his favorite subject - and got 9 pages of hits.)
Regarding the rest of his family, Judd says at the beginning that they "banter, quip and insult our way through birthdays, holidays, weddings, illnesses." The disrespect that the family has for each other is suffocating. Three of his 4 family members cheat on their partners, Judd has sex with his brother's wife. This is all supposed to be funny, but there wasn't a shred of human decency - or growth - in any of the characters. The book ends as an emotionally vacant book would.
I clearly am not the demographic that this book was written for. I think that the demographic who might enjoy this book might be males, and women under 30.