Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You

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Hello, World.

I wanted to share with you a book I just read. Since I posted my summer reading list on here, I thought it would be a good idea to review/share my thoughts about a given book once I finish it. When I got home from summer, I read The One and Only by Emily Giffin because I read her Something Borrowed, and really enjoyed it. While this wasn’t on my reading list, I just had to read it. After I finished that novel, I moved on to my reading list. I chose to read This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper first for a couple of reasons. First, the storyline really jumped out to me because I totally relate to the hesitation of being stuck with your family for seven days and nights after being separated for a while. I was also drawn to the fact that Tropper’s is recommended for fans of John Green.

So, the storyline follows Judd Foxman, a man in his thirties whose father passes away prior to the novels opening. His father’s last dying wish is that his family sits shiva, a religious ritual that last seven days. Foxman has a uniquely detached family that holds a lot of anger between siblings. The death of Judd’s father is compounded by the fact that his marriage of ten years crumbled to ruins in a matter of moments. Judd chronicles how he found out his college sweetheart cheated with his radio boss and misogynist, and the account is rather heartbreaking.

There were so many things in this book I could relate to. The difficulty that comes with talking to family about being hurt in a way that’s already next to impossible to explain. It’s interesting because one of the biggest critiques of this novel was the focus on Judd’s obsession with sex and women. One review even commented that the narrator read more like a 14-year–old boy than a 30 something man. I disagree with this point because I felt like his obsession and his focusing on women in the novel was showing how utterly ruined he was from his broken marriage. He stared, he commented, and he looked at women, but all of this illuminates that Judd is damaged and suffering and indignant. His wife of nine years cheated on him, and no matter who he looks at or what he does…all roads lead back to her. The raw emotion he feels as he explores their relationship from start to finish is really devastating, but in a good way. He continues to try to find where he went wrong, and that’s something I enjoyed because I think we can all relate that when life doesn’t go as planned, we go over events time and time again to try to distinguish why our plan failed.

One thing I will critique, however, was the lack of dealing with his father’s death. I felt that this area of the novel was a little covered up by his failed marriage and the sibling issues. I’ve witnessed people lose parents, and I felt like the death was a little diminished by other areas of the book. There seemed to be a lack of genuine grief or at least growth toward a healthier attitude to the death. It just seemed a like a bit of a side note in comparison to other parts. There was also a sense of resentment for even having to attend the shiva, despite the father requesting it from his family. It’s a weird sensation, really, but it may have just felt odd to me because I am so close to my immediate family.

This was one of the first books I’ve ever read strictly from a male perspective that wasn’t for school. I was happy with the voice, and I was happy with the novel. I thought it was good, and I thought it was strongly written. It’s being made into a movie starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey. I watched the trailer, but felt it seemed too comedic compared to the voice in the novel. As the say, “the book is always better.” Anyway, I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes:

“That’s love in real life: messy and corrupt and completely unreliable.”

“That’s the thing about life; everything feels so permanent, but you can disappear in an instant.”

“Sometimes, contentment is a matter of will. You have to look at what you have right in front of you, at what it could be, and stop measuring it against what you’ve lost.”

“I am still perfecting the art of hating her, and until I’ve got it down, I don’t feel ready to engage.”

“We all nod, the way you would at a self-indulgent museum tour guide, taking the path of least resistance to get to the snack bar.”

“His cologne fills the room like bad news.”

“Penny’s honesty has always been like nudity in an action movie; gratuitous, but no less welcome for it.”

This book was really good because it stayed with me. I enjoyed the writing style, and I liked the raw emotion. I liked the sense of gut wrenching heartbreak that seemed still hopeful. I would definitely recommend this book, though it was a little graphic in areas.

Truly,

Callie Leigh

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