Friday, March 19, 2010

Year in (Book) Review: This Is Where I Leave You

Looooooved this one... probably not for everyone.
(Also, unrelatedly, I had grand plans to link all these book reviews together, and for the first few I remembered to include hyperlinks to past reviews. That didn't last. Does anyone miss it? If so I'll totally pick it up again; if not, screw it.)

Okay. Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You. Young New York guy who's put out several novels, but this is the first of his that I've read. I've heard mixed things about his previous books, which makes me think he's a love-him-or-not-so-much kind of guy. And I love him. (Or, at least, I love this novel.) If I was a super-snide Jewish guy, I would want to have written this book. Actually, being a super-snide waspy white girl, I still wish I'd written this book.

TIWILY (that's cute, huh?) tells the story of an upstate New York 30-something who's having a tough go of it. His marriage is on the verge of crumbling for some horrible, humorous reasons, and the book opens with his sister calling to say that his father has finally succumbed to the cancer he's been fighting. Not being a particularly close family, or a particularly religious one, they begrudgingly join together for a week of sitting shiva, their father's suspect dying request. It pretty much goes downhill from there.

Again, this one's not going to be for everyone. It's a dark topic, with lots of dark offshoots, for starters. And he's a bit crass, by which I am politely saying that he's downright vulgar from time to time. So if that's not your thing, watch out. Me, I can't get enough. Somehow or another, Tropper manages to walk this really beautiful (totally not the right word, but I'm running with it) line between the comical melodrama of a book that was obviously written with screenplay dreams, and this exceptionally raw, true story of a guy dealing with a very beat up heart. And don't we all want to carefully straddle that line between being comically melodramatic and pretty damn real? He is laugh out loud funny in more than a few places. I mean, laugh out loud. He writes dialogue in a way that makes me sick with envy; it's straightforward, stripped down and flows exactly the way it should. A lot happens -- too much, honestly; at some point you have to be okay with not giving every. single. character (of which there are aplenty) some horrific blight -- but he balances it all and keeps it easy for his reader to manage. And it doesn't end completely depressingly, which would have been the obvious way to go. Kudos on that.

I really, really ate this one up (obviously, since I just finished Committed two days ago) and that'll probably tell you something about me. I have no idea what, though.

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