Summary and book reviews of This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

This Is Where I Leave You

By Jonathan Tropper

This Is Where I Leave You
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2009,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2010,
    352 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Book Summary

The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family—including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister—have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public.

Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.

As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant.

This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper's most accomplished work to date, a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind—whether we like it or not.

Chapter 1

Dad’s dead," Wendy says off handedly, like it’s happened before, like it happens every day. It can be grating, this act of hers, to be utterly unfazed at all times, even in the face of tragedy. "He died two hours ago."

"How’s Mom doing?"

"She’s Mom, you know? She wanted to know how much to tip the coroner."

I have to smile, even as I chafe, as always, at our family’s patented inability to express emotion during watershed events. There is no occasion calling for sincerity that the Foxman family won’t quickly diminish or pervert through our own genetically engineered brand of irony and evasion. We banter, quip, and insult our way through birthdays, holidays, weddings, illnesses. Now Dad is dead and Wendy is cracking wise.

It serves him right, since he was something of a pioneer at the forefront of emotional repression.

"It gets better," Wendy says.

"Better? Jesus, Wendy, do you hear yourself?"

"Okay, that came out ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel's protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife's infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?

  2. What was your first impression of Judd's wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd's perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Be warned: you will laugh. You may not always be proud of why you're laughing, but unless you're a paragon of virtue who can resist all urges to indulge in a little schadenfreude, you will laugh. Laughter aside, however, beneath Tropper's wicked sense of humor there is a universal substructure of wisdom that is applicable to all families and blood relationships. Read it and weep… and laugh.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

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Media Reviews
The New York Times

…smartly comic novel …Although Mr. Tropper's dialogue here is fast and fresh, his book also has ballast…Still, this author's strong suit is wisecracks, the more irreverent the better. And he gives snarky allure to Judd's observations.

The Washington Post - Carolyn See

This is a beautiful novel about men -- their lust and rage and sweetness. Read it -- or take it as a gift -- when you next go on a dreaded family holiday

Entertainment Weekly

[A] magnificently funny family saga... since the menschy soulfulness that infuses Tropper's writing may be this brimming novel's most delicate gift of all, I urge with all my heart and kishkes: Read this one! Read and weep with laughter.

Publishers Weekly

Tropper strikes an excellent balance between the family history and its present-day fallout, proving his ability to create touchingly human characters and a deliciously page-turning story.

Kirkus Reviews

Tropper...has covered this man-child territory before, but few can rival his poignant depictions of damaged men befuddled by the women they love.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Highly recommended for Tropper fans, who will rejoice at the opportunity to indulge; others will wonder where he's been all their lives.

USA Today

How bracing and refreshing to read something from the male perspective. . . . Tropper gets men. He's a more sincere, insightful version of Nick Hornby, that other master of male psyche.

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Beyond the Book

Sitting Shiva
The word "shiva" (pronounced SHIHvah) is derived from the Hebrew word sheva which means "seven." Sitting shiva means that the family of a loved one – usually reserved for the family of a deceased spouse, parent or child – gathers in that loved one's home for seven days. Friends and family visit to support the family as they take time to mourn, and to remember the life of the deceased. While they may not observe the more orthodox practices outlined below, many Jewish families retain the spirit of the tradition in the form of an extended wake, in which friends and family stop by to share memories and grieve together.

Members of the immediate family sit on chairs that are low to the ground – historically ...

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