By Lea Shores
Everyone’s family is a little dysfunctional. We all have an uncle who gets too drunk and too loud, an aunt who brings much younger men to meet the family, or a brother who’s the family disappointment because he started using drugs.
Author Jonathan Tropper takes this universal family dynamic and adds a lot of laughter and a bit of heartbreak to his most recent novel, This is Where I Leave You.
Judd Foxman’s family has been brought together to spend seven days sitting Shiva to mourn the death of their Jewish father. Over the seven days with his family, Judd ends up confronting more than his grief of his deceased dad.
This is Where I Leave You could have easily been a mediocre story of love and loss and the wisecracks could have been taken too far.
Instead of being an overdone piece of work, it’s a fast paced account of the people Judd has lost in his life, including his wife, who left him for his boss— a famous radio personality— after the death of their unborn child.
Judd’s narrative slips back and forth between the past and the present. He is haunted by the memory of the first time he met his wife and by the image of witnessing her infidelity. While grieving his father, Judd also realizes that he lost his father long before he died.
It doesn’t take long to see that Judd isn’t the only family member carrying around unresolved issues.
His grieving mother may be having an affair with the woman down the street, his sister Wendy is having an affair with her old high school flame, his sister-in-law Alice is struggling with fertility problems and no one in this mixed-up family can express any emotion without using their fists.
While being faced with ghosts from the past in his childhood home, Judd is also forced to deal with the future when his wife comes to tell him she is pregnant and the baby could be his.
His life is turned upside down yet again when baby-seeking Alice asks him to sleep with her.
In order to move on, Judd must learn both to forgive and ask others for forgiveness.
Called one of the best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post, the novel This is Where I Leave You is impossible to put down. Topper’s characters are funny and touching. The story occasionally crosses the line of being believable and but makes up for it by being a genuinely relatable story.
Lea Shores is a senior majoring in English. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.