Monday, September 6, 2010
Jonathan Tropper’s 2009 novel “This Is Where I Leave You” is described as “A magnificently funny family saga…”, and “often side splitting”. It is the story of the Foxman family. Judd Foxman, our narrator, is one of four children, the third born and the second son, in a basically dysfunctional Jewish family. The Foxman children, now adults, have been summoned to their childhood home to sit Shiva for their father, Mort Foxman. Shiva is the weeklong ritual of sitting in your home and welcoming the friends and family who want to pay respects to the person who has died. The kids find the idea somewhat strange because as far as they knew their father was an atheist. What is making it even harder is that the rabbi, who is directing the Shiva, is a childhood friend of the Foxmans who had a few strange behaviors as a boy and who they nicknamed Boner.
The Foxman clan is an interesting group. Judd, the morose narrator, has recently walked in on his wife and his obnoxious boss having sex in his bed. Paul, Judd’s older brother by sixteen months, and his wife are trying desperately to have a baby. One afternoon the family gets to listen to them having sex over the baby monitor which their sister, Wendy, had accidentally left turned on in the baby’s room. Wendy has three children and a husband who spends the entire week on his cell phone
orchestrating million dollar deals. The youngest Foxman brother, Phillip, is a lovable fellow, who is a mystery to his family, which is fine with them because he just lies whenever anyone questions him. He appears with his “life coach” who is also his girlfriend and fifteen years older than he is. But the best character is Mrs. Foxman, the outspoken celebrity author of, “Cradle and All: A Mother’s Guide To Enlightened Parenting”. She has silicone breasts, which she loves to display, and wears miniskirts and stiletto heels. Her children cannot understand why she just can’t dress appropriately for a 63 year old woman who has just lost her husband.
A week of sitting Shiva is more than this family can take as old wounds and grudges
resurface and irreverent wisecracks and put me downs are relentlessly thrown back and forth. But in spite of themselves and their wacky relationships with each other, they learn more about their father (and their mother) in this week than all the years growing up in that house on Knob’s End.
Jonathan Tropper’s characters are funny and endearing. His one liners can be hilarious and the story and the intricate family history make for a very good novel that seems to be heading toward a movie. I definitely agree that this is a book that will make you smile if not laugh out loud!