Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

The Book Expo is a great place to be exposed to the type of books that I typically don't read--novels by "real" writers who aren't obsessed with coming up with a new twist on the serial killer theme. (OK, (i) I do read other "action" type books and (ii) I am always going to exempt Lee Child from my derision because Jack Reacher is such a smart and well-written character. But I digress.) So, my modus operandi at the Book Expo has been to follow Wendi's lead and grab as many books as possible that have been written by well-regarded authors, not in hopes of reading them before they hit the library shelf but in order to sell them to others who want to do so.

On occasion, I pick up a book that I sold only to find that it is in fact a truly enjoyable novel. This is Where I Leave You looks to fall into this category. The set-up for this book is the death of a father who, though non-religious, asks his family to sit shiva for him. (As an aside, I learned that there are specially designed shiva chairs that are 12" from the ground. They are low to the ground as a sign of respect.) The prospect of spending seven days together is a bit daunting for this rag tag family and I can't wait to find out where it leads them. Tropper's writing is full of expressions that I want to sit and appreciate. For instance, when talking about the mother who monopolizes phone conversations while the father tries to chime in from the background, he says that "Marrying her was like joining the chorus." What a great analogy!

The hallmark of a powerful writer might be the reader's ability to visualize a scene as it is being described to you. The narrator's description of his thought process when he finds his wife in bed with another man, as comedic as it is in many ways, rings true. It takes some time to process the scene and, once he does, his reaction is like none you've ever heard of before. The act of sitting in the shiva chairs provides the setting for one memorable scene as a well-wisher ogles the D cup breasts of the new widow, causing one of the sons to whisper that "It's like AARP porn."

Postscript:  Get thee to a library and check out this book.  It is laugh out loud funny and poignant, often at the same time.

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