This is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper
Is it possible to have a book make you laugh out loud and break your heart at the same time? Judd Foxman is about as low as he can get. His wife is having an affair with his boss and his life is completely upside down. At this vulnerable moment he finds out that his father has just died after a long battle with cancer. He returns home to sit Shiva with his mother and siblings for seven days.
There’s something about the way the family members relate to each other that is so recognizable. Even though I can’t relate to the same level of dysfunction, it’s still easy to see your own family in the Foxmans. There’s the baby of the family who gets away with anything, the eldest who takes on the mantle of responsibility but resents the others because of it and then there’s Judd. The tangle mess of their family unit is relatable and also unique, just as every family is. Tolstoy said it best in Anna Karenina,
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
There is a lot of sex in this book. I heard someone describe it as the “dude-lit,” which seems rather appropriate. The emphasis is on the characters more than the sex, so it didn’t bother me, but there was one line in the book about it that made me laugh…
“You need a GPS to follow the sex lives of this family. I wonder if love is this twisted for everyone or if our family is uniquely talented at making such a mess of it.”
BOTTOM LINE: Once you get past the laughs and awkward family situations the book is really about dealing with grief, forgiveness and finally growing up. The message is a good one and the novel is well written. I really enjoyed it the whole time I was reading it and can’t wait to check out more from Tropper.
“We knew marriage could be difficult in the same way we knew there were starving children in Africa. It was a tragic fact but worlds away from our reality.”
“‘Please,’ she says, ‘Tell me what you’re thinking.’ It’s an absurd request. Our minds, unedited by guilt or shame, are selfish and unkind, and the majority of our thoughts, at any given time, are not for public consumption, because they would either be hurtful or else just make us look like the selfish and unkind bastards we are.”
Pair with the TV show Arrested Development. Nothing quite matches the hilarious family dysfunction of the Bluths. The first two seasons are particularly great.