Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

I joined a book club and this was our first selection. I don’t have a good track record with book clubs. I am too picky to make the necessary compromises about book selection. Sometimes my 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)


Gayle said...

So happy to find someone else who's a Book Club Nazi like me! I only like book clubs where I get to pick the books. :) Hence, my blog and my online book club.

I liked this one a lot - classic Jonathan Tropper. If you're in the mood for more, try How to Talk to a Widower. All of his books are similar, in many respects, but equally entertaining. Of the three I've read, HTTTAW is my favorite. I heard him speak last year, and he was just as funny in person. Here's a link:



I love the description of you and the blog; and the book club certainly sounds like it has potential. I was in a book group that did not have enough members so often there were only three of us. It would have been OK if everyone had read the book but that was not always the case. And I was among the offenders on certain titles. But I like the idea of not knowing each other so the personal chat will be much less of an issue. And I assume you will feel free to speak your mind.

Amused said...

I'm the exact same way too about book clubs! I ran a book club for a couple of years but it stressed me out. Now I just flit in and out. I read another one of Tropper's books earlier this year and really liked it so glad you enjoyed this one.

Returning Scot said...

I know what you mean about Book Clubs, but I have decided the people in my one are too precious to not see...I worry that the social side is taking over the reading side, but actually, does that matter? It's still the book that brings us together, and we're good enough mates to have a good barny about whether or not we liked the book!
Love your blog...and SO impressed you do a book a week. Cool!

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