As mentioned in a previous blog post Jonathon Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You was suggested for me to read by Rider Strong (who also suggested it to anyone listening to Literary Disco, the podcast about books he does with Julia Pistell and Tod Goldberg). Part of my interest of the book when Rider Strong was describing why it was his – I think – second favorite book he read in 2012 was that it’s probably being made into a movie – with Shawn Levy of Reel Steel, Night at the Museum and multiple episodes of Animorphs, set to direct.
I do enjoy reading books that were or will be made into movies – in fact the next two books I plan to read, Choke by Chuck Palahniuk and Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell, were made into movies – but it’s not so I can be that asshole who says, “The book was better than the movie”….It’s so I can be that asshole who says, “Huh, there’s a movie called The Hobbit? I wouldn’t know, but I have read the book. Yeah, I only read books, you Philistine.” I’m using Philistine in its anti-intellectual definition from one of my favorite movies The Squid and the Whale, which was never a book.
But the reason I love reading books that are turned into movies is because it’s fun to compare how the stories and characters are portrayed through two very different mediums. Even when the movie is bad it’s still an interesting experience to sit there being like, “That never happened in the book.” “I imagined that character having a bigger presence.” “I can’t believe the book never told me Katniss had that great of an ass.”
But just because this book is probably being made into a movie wasn’t the biggest reason I wanted to read the book. Rider Strong was describing one of his favorite parts – and this is not a spoiler because it happens at the beginning of the book – where the narrator walks in on his wife cheating on him, but rather than the act of cheating being the driving force of the scene, it’s really the thought process of the narrator that makes the scene so impactful. It led me to believe that the book would be less about the events (which the book has a lot of) and more about the processing of said events, which is also why I believe if this is made into a movie it probably won’t be great. One of my favorite books was Starter for Ten by David Nicholls, which was made into a movie, that apparently got good reviews, but I didn’t like because it didn’t have the protagonist’s thought process in the movie which was the reason I loved the book. This is Where I Leave You might fair better in movie form than Starter for Ten because my memory tells me it has better dialogue than Starter for Ten did, although some of the jokes skew more toward Two and a Half Men than Modern Family.
At some point I should probably tell you what the book is about. Judd Foxman is a Jew. Or Jewish. I always forget which is appropriate. Seems like a weird bit of information, but it’s pertinent to the story because Judd’s father dies, and despite not being religious his mother informs the family that he found God on his deathbed and wants his family to Sit Shiva, which is a Jewish tradition when a family members die. The Family gets together for a week and mourns the person’s death while visitors visit (as visitors tend to do) their home to pay their respects.
The Foxman family hasn’t been together in years, so having to spend a week together is a big deal, especially with some buried resentment and constant dysfunctional-ity. To make things worse for Judd he recently found out his wife had been cheating on him for over a year and has spent the last few weeks living in someone else’s basement.
Over the course of the week Judd must now come to terms with the past, make sense of his future, all while dealing with the present – see what I did there? Are you finally proud of me Mom!!!!
As I said earlier a lot of shit goes down – although I probably didn’t say it in that fashion. The house contains Judd’s pseudo-wiser than thou mother, former big high school and college athlete Paul (Judd’s Brother) and Paul’s wife Alice (the girl Judd lost his virginity to), Wendy (Judd’s older sister) with her job obsessed husband Berry and their three kids, and the youngest brother, and black sheep of the family, Phillip, and his new older girlfriend Tracy. Almost all the characters have big interactions and things in the past to resolve, which is not something the Foxman’s do well.
The book is very funny. I never laugh while reading books, but I must have laughed out loud like 2 or 3 times during this book. Again, I never laugh out loud while reading, so 2 or 3 times is a lot for me. It also deals with heavy topics and has emotional parts. I’m not a big family guy, so I’m betting someone who has a dysfunctional family would probably get more out of the book than I did.
I give the book four out of five pizza slices, with 3 and a half crusts. The ending – which wasn’t horrible – lost it half a crust for me.