This is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You

by Jonathan Tropper

Gail Reid (09/29/13): When the four adult children of Mort Foxman come together for a 7-day shiva or mourning period for their father, we get a chance to see family dysfunction at its best (or worst). The story is told by brother Judd whose marriage has just broken up when he discovers his wife in bed with his boss. Mother and widow Hillary is a therapist whose 25-year old book on child raising renders her a tv guru. The other siblings are just as screwed up as Judd who may have loved his wife but loved sex more and tells us all about it ad nauseum.

Although this novel was recommended to me by two people, my taste in contemporary literature must not be apparent. While there were certainly humorous parts as well as poignant passages where the author captures some of the high points in the lives of these characters, their current situations come across as pathetic. They may not like their siblings and seven days together may be torturous; but more importantly, they do not like themselves and what they have become. Personally, I don't have to like characters in books but I do hope to see some redeeming values in people. Not here.
Rating: **

Patti's Pages: I can see how this book, alternately funny and poignant, would be a good candidate for a movie, but it's an even better novel. Judd Foxman and his three siblings, along with their stiletto-wearing, breast-enhanced mother, are sitting shiva for their recently deceased father. This means that the five of them, plus their families, will be spending the next week in the same house. Judd and his beloved wife, Jen, however, have separated, after Judd discovered her in their bed with his boss. Judd, nursing an acutely broken heart, is somewhat lost after the demise of his marriage, but his brothers are not any better off. His older brother Paul harbors a mountain of pent-up resentment against Judd, blaming him for an unfortunate encounter with a dog, which destroyed Paul's plans for a professional baseball career. The youngest brother Phil is basically a screw-up that delivers outrageous fabrications about his current occupation to anyone who asks. Wendy, their sister, manages to steer clear of most of the mayhem, but there is so much emotion that needs to be aired, particularly between Judd and Paul, that plenty of sparks fly.

Scattered among the fistfights and slamming doors are some very funny, memorable moments, including some potty humor, some hilarious banter with children in which the word "donkey" is substituted for the word "ass," and a pot smoking scene in the synagogue. Judd occasionally throws out some bitterly honest remarks that both shock and amuse, and almost every night he has nightmares of having an artificial leg. Then one night he dreams that his father removes the prosthetic to reveal a perfectly uninjured leg. My guess is that this dream symbolizes how broken his life is and that this family reunion in honor of his father somehow has the potential to help him restore order. Phil's current girlfriend, Tracyan older woman and Phil's former shrinkoffers Judd some very sage advice that we can only hope he has the good sense to follow.
Rating: *****

Judy Stanton: I love a good comedy and think that laughter IS the best medicine, BUT, I have a hard time finding humor through the written word. I never was a fan of Dave Barry or David Sedaris. That may be why "This is Where I Leave You" never caught me laughing out loud. The book comes highly recommended and I was 140+ on the library wait list, so it must be intensely popular. It's the story of a Jewish family with four grown siblings, who come together to sit shiva for 7 full days for their recently departed father. The story is told by the 3rd sibling, Judd, whose personal marital problems start the litany of stories of family dysfunction and sexuality issues. The story is readable, but, for me, it was not compelling.
Rating: ***

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