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Book Review – This is Where I Leave You

shi·va

SHivə

noun JUDAISM

a period of seven days’ formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral.

“she went to her sister’s funeral and sat shiva

I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with this book.

I’m not joking.

Not a single fucking thing.

I loved every word, every chapter, every character, every fatal flaw. 

This is Where I Leave You is about the fucked up inner-webbings of a family who just lost their father from cancer. Not only is it a fucked up web, but it is an unraveling web, one that comes apart right in front of their eyes as they sit shiva to fulfill their father’s dying wish.

I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that this book is packed full with dark humor. The Foxman Family’s six members like each other enough, but only when they’re not together. So when you add a seven-day shiva to the mix, relationships that overlap, are vaguely incestuous, cuckolded, and/or separated by fifteen years, the joke of it all really starts to “hit you where the Good Lord split you.”

This is what I liked about the book; and brace yourself, there was a lot.

The language. Jonathan Tropper, our talented author, has a WAY with his words. Personal favorite lines:

“And I can feel that miserable future hurting toward me at high speed, thundering across the plains in a cloud of dust like a wildebeest stampede.”

“The sun is just receding beyond the perimeter of the yard, and the mosquitos haven’t yet emerged. It’s the best time to be outside.”

“At some point, being angry is just another bad habit, like smoking, and you keep poisoning yourself without thinking about it.”

“We can all drive stick. We can all change a flat. We can all repress our feelings until they poison us. It’s a complicated legacy.”

“The past is prelude and the future is a black hole…”

“Anything can happen.”

I loved the way the family interacted, each one had their usual, yet completely unusual mannerisms that made their character memorable. Wendy is snide to a default, Paul is proud to a default, Phillip is confused to a default, and Judd is oblivious to a default, and every time they spoke you could feel who they were, you could pick up on their obvious ticks, which moved along like they were all on separate internal clocks, which were all keeping time with separate agendas, and somehow, there was still something that kept them unified, something that could very well be love.

And this love was confused, heavy, burdened, but completely beautiful, and I fell in love with them more and more the deeper I got into the book. Unfortunately, I was so busy all week, but the fact that I still managed to finish it in six days shows just how committed to this book I was.

I loved the consistency, the pacing, the way the flashbacks came just at the right time. I loved how the book was broken up in four ways–by the day, by the time, by the chapter, and by the flashback. It kept me on the edge of my seat. When I didn’t see a time above a paragraph of words, I knew I was getting flashback, that or a dream, and how wonderful it was to be able to get along so well with a book.

I’m a major fan of the language, which was philosophical and funny, like John Green mixed with Jandy Nelson aged twenty years. I never felt like the characters were teenaged, Judd has a bit of a younger feel to him, but this is perhaps because he is recently cuckolded and unemployed, which makes him increasingly clingy to anything that is grounded as his life has been dug up, his younger single and meandering bones excavated from the roots. 

SPOILER ALERT

I wasn’t even mad when Judd started thinking seriously about getting back together with his cheating wife, Jen, and pitying her because she was pregnant with their child. I wasn’t even mad. Because it is such a natural thing to pity a pregnant woman, especially if that woman loves you and had and still has your heart deep in her immoral pockets. And it’s such a human thing to want for the person that hurt you, turning your feelings off is decidedly difficult work, so the realness of this book, the fact that Judd through and through was thinking how much he’d like to go home to Jen and how much he’d like to slit her throat made everything so clear and true.

I have to say that the characters, every single one of them, the smaller parts, the bigger parts, they were all so key, and it made me feeling like I was apart of the neighborhood.

I loved Tracy. 

Tracy, Phillip’s engaged to be engaged cougar girlfriend, who also doubles as a therapist, was such a surprising yet wonderful addition to the book. The family, which hashes out arguments about as good as any other–with violence and then denial–strikes such a stark contrast to Tracy’s “talk about your feelings” motto, and it mixed together like water and oil, but in that really satisfying way. You’re not frustrated because they don’t, you’re more looking at the top layer like, this is so fascinating and scientific and I MUST. KNOW. MORE.

Penny was another great addition. What a vibe Penny has. So cool, non-demanding, effortless, the kind of girl you want to be yet don’t want to be at all. I loved the pact she struck up with Judd, I loved the way things were awkward between the two and you, too, felt awkward through Jonathan’s storytelling. And they sort of tried and failed to navigate around it, and I loved how abrupt it all was, how it was so careless, reckless, fast, sexy, and operating completely under the thrill of being recently univalent. 

Wendy. 

Or should I just stop naming names and say THE WOMEN. The women of this book completely stole the show for me. How kind Jonathan Tropper is to paint women in a way that men usually don’t. They were all independent, self-aware, strong, and completely in charge of the show. The men kind of lolly-gagged around in their lackadaisical daymares, while the women built the foundation. But Wendy really had my heart. Wendy–strong-willed, ignorant, but in the type of way that is excusable, passionate–Wendy is the shit. She handed everyone their bullshit on a silver platter, even her own, and I will never forget her as long as I live.

The plot, which was driven by the seven days of shiva, twisted and turned around and around, each day feeling like a mini eternity, and I have no complaints.

That’s all that I REALLY have to report, I have no complaints–just a whole lotta praises to sing.

BRAVO, Jonathan, best book I’ve read this year and it was the fifteenth… so those are some good odds.

HERE is Jonathan’s website, I strongly suggest you check it out, I know I will be going to B&N to pick up every last one of the books that he’s written.

40/38

Yeah. I can do that.

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