It’s not often that you get to read a book that deals with death and broken marriages, that actual makes you laugh out loud. Sure, John Irving makes you chuckle a bit, maybe even a head nod, but This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper makes you laugh.out.loud.
One of the opening scenes has the narrator, Judd, surprise his wife on her birthday by coming home early with a cake from her favorite bakery. The surprise is that when he walks into the bedroom he finds her “…lying spread-eagle on the bed, with some guy’s wide dough ass hovering above her, clenching and unclenching to the universal beat of procreation, his hands jammed under her ass, lifting her up into each thrust, her fingers leaving white marks where they pressed into his back, well, it took some time to process.” This is a typical sentence for Tropper (although not all sexual), where he gives a long run-onny description and then ends it with a zinger.
Judd learns that his father’s dying wish is that his family sits shiva, i.e. they will be forced to sit together as a family for a week. Judd’s older bother Paul is the high school jock who took over the family sporting good buisness from his father. His sister Wendy is married to a bluetooth wearing buisness big-wig who largely ignores her and her growing brood. His much younger brother Phillip is a Porche driving playboy or is that boy-toy. His mother, Hillary, is a child therapist/author who published all her parenting tips/blunders from raising this family. Needless to say it is a screwed up bunch to be thrown together for a week.
Judd is dealing with two losses, the loss of his father and his marriage. The book begins with him being lost in both regards and he is not sure how to process, as he is armed with the tools his screwed up therapist mother left him. Anger, humor, sex, frustration, sarcasim, hatred, confusion, drifitng… these all happen to Judd as he stumbles through the book.
At one point the three brothers are in temple (it is not an overly Jewish book by the way…) and sneak into one of the classrooms to smoke a joint. As a result they set of the sprinklers and get soaked as they try to rush back to rejoin everyone else.
“Just act casual,” Paul says. “Blend in.”
It seems easy enough, only because we’re too stoned to realize that three men dripping in their suits might stand out.
All in all I am going to go find more Tropper to read as I can’t get enough!
4 1/2 stars