bluntly worded criticisms put other members off. And I am certainly not interested in going to meetings where people haven’t really read the book and just want to drink chardonnay and talk about their children. I have, in fact, said previously that the only way I would be in a book club was if I could pick every book and run every meeting. Well that works, if the only club member is me. Hence, this blog, perfect for my egocentric tendencies.
But this book group came together with serendipitous solutions to most of my objections. It has a leader, Elana, who keeps us on track and whose MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop gives her all the cred I need. It has a theme (contemporary Jewish fiction) so the book choices are limited in a manageable yet interesting way. Its members are a diverse group of men and women (a librarian, a rabbi, a lawyer, a retired professor, some graduate students, some stay-at-home moms, a couple of writer/editors) who don’t know one another well enough get sidetracked into personal conversations. Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic.
And I liked this book (though Elana and several others did not)! Tropper uses the construct of shiva, the week-long traditional Jewish mourning period to bring together a highly dysfunctional family, their neighbors, friends, lovers, ex-spouses, and offspring for a week of fireworks and breakdowns. It’s a very funny, sad story of a modern family who are just off-beat enough to make good copy but who aren’t so out there that you don’t believe in them.
Some club members commented that Tropper is too hard on his characters. His physical descriptions can be merciless, bordering on cruel (the overweight matron who breaks her chair, for example, and the creepy neighbor with the wandering hands). But he’s an equal opportunity misanthrope and it all just seemed so real. I thought it was a really good read – intelligent and entertaining, with original characters who stick around in your head for a while.
(Book 51, 2010)