Jonathan Tropper has carved a niche for himself in the Nick Hornby corner of the literary world. And on some level it would be easy to dismiss him as a imitator of Hornby if not for one simple thing–his novels are always so damn good.
“This Is Where I Leave You” is no exception. In fact, it’s the novel that takes all the Troopper tropes and pulls them together in a fascinating new character examination novel that is both compulsively readable and utterly fascinating.
Judd Foxman is in his mid-30s and facing a crossroads. He’s separated from his wife, who he caught in bed with his boss and radio shock-jock, on her birthday. That led to him quitting his job and as he wiles away days in a basement apartment with nothing but a TV and a few random pieces of furniture to keep him company, he’s summoned home to sit shiva for his recently deceased father. Apparently, it was dad’s dying wish for the family to sit shiva for him, something that none of the siblings are too thrilled about. Seven days at home with family could and does bring up some family issues that have been lurking under the surface for years but no one has ever had the time or energy to dig up and resolve.
As if that weren’t enough, Judd’s wife announces she is pregnant and he runs into an old high school flame who he made a pact with that they’d get together at 40 if they weren’t married or significantly involved.
It sounds like a lot to juggle in one novel, but Tropper deftly juggles all the storylines into a coherent, funny and fascinating whole. Weaving together the various threads of the past, present and potential future keep the page turning and Tropper utilizes well-placed flashbacks to reveal pertinent backstory at the right moment. He makes it look effortless to sew in seeds of the story and then allow us to witness the actual events at just the right moment for both the readers and Judd. The fact that Judd used to date the now-wife of his older brother pays an interesting and humorous dividend as well as an emotional one as the story unfolds.
In the week, revelations will come for many family members. They all feel authentic as we take this journey with Judd and as you read the story, the title becomes more and more relevant to the story. It was a story I didn’t want to end, but I can understand why Tropper chose this week-long snapshot of Judd and his family. I wouldn’t mind a return visit in the future (which would be a first for Tropper). That said, I did leave the novel satisfied with the journey and feeling like it reflected real life and that Judd was a living, breathing character. Things don’t always wrap-up neatly or as expected.