One Last Thing Before I Go

( 33 )

Overview

The bestselling author of This Is Where I Leave You returns with a hilarious and heart-rending tale about one familiy's struggle to reconnect.

“Mistakes have been made.” Drew Silver has begun to accept that life isn’t going to turn out as he expected. His fleeting fame as the drummer for a one-hit wonder rock band is nearly a decade behind him. His ex-wife is about to marry a terrific guy. And his Princeton-bound teenage daughter Casey has just confided in him that she’s ...

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One Last Thing Before I Go

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Overview

The bestselling author of This Is Where I Leave You returns with a hilarious and heart-rending tale about one familiy's struggle to reconnect.

“Mistakes have been made.” Drew Silver has begun to accept that life isn’t going to turn out as he expected. His fleeting fame as the drummer for a one-hit wonder rock band is nearly a decade behind him. His ex-wife is about to marry a terrific guy. And his Princeton-bound teenage daughter Casey has just confided in him that she’s pregnant—because Silver is the one she cares least about letting down.

So when Silver learns that he requires emergency life-saving heart surgery, he makes the radical decision to refuse the operation, choosing instead to spend what time he has left to repair his relationship with Casey, become a better man, and live in the moment—even if that moment isn’t going to last very long. As his exasperated family looks on, Silver grapples with the ultimate question of whether or not his own life is worth saving.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Tropper’s latest comic novel (after This Is Where I Leave You), 44-year-old Drew Silver, the washed-up drummer for one-hit wonders the Bent Daisies, refuses lifesaving surgery to fix a torn aorta—he realizes, after all, “that the lives of everyone close to him seem to improve dramatically once they leave him behind.” Eight years ago, Silver’s band hit it big, he behaved badly, and his wife, Denise, filed for divorce. He has never forgiven himself for losing his family, and since the split, he has languished by the Jersey Turnpike in an efficiency hotel and drummed his life away at weddings and bat mitzvahs. To make his imminent demise even worse, it’s just weeks before Denise remarries (Silver’s doctor), and Silver’s Princeton-bound, 18-year-old daughter, Casey, reveals that she’s pregnant. Silver has decided to let nature run its course, but a ministroke leaves him unwittingly voicing his desire to “Be a better man,” sparking a joint effort to reunite their family. Though Silver’s charm doesn’t translate on the page, Tropper fans can rest easy—plans are in the works to bring Silver to the silver screen. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Tropper’s characters are likably zany and fallible, and perhaps more important, funny. One Last Thing Before I Go is a poignant story about facing death and celebrating life, even when things seem well beyond repair." —Newsweek/The Daily Beast

"The richly talented Tropper (This Is Where I Leave You) has created an acerbic, middle-aged lost soul who will ultimately illuminate the reasons we stick around on this lopsided planet despite significant temptation to let it go. Readers will love Silver and want to throttle him in equal measure. Eminently quotable, hilariously funny, and emotionally draining, this arresting tour de force will entertain well after the book is done."  -Library Journal (starred review)

“…a bristling, witty tale of woe that'll make you appreciate whatever good things, no matter how few, have come your way.” –Entertainment Weekly on One Last Thing Before I Go"Tropper entertainingly examines the angst of middle-age masculinity." - Kirkus 

"Tropper is a master of the mid-life male coming-of-age story, and his latest is full of the charm and wit his readers cherish." - Booklist

“It’s amazing what can happen in the hands of the casually brilliant author. . . . Read and weep with laughter.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Tropper gets men. He's a more sincere, insightful version of Nick Hornby, that other master of male psyche.”
USA Today on This is Where I Leave You

“A tender and unexpectedly hilarious take on the messiness of family life.”—People StyleWatch

“Artful and brilliant, filled with colorful narratives and witty dialogue.”
— Associated Press on This is Where I Leave You

“This is a beautiful novel about men — their lust and rage and sweetness.”
The Washington Post, on This is Where I Leave You

“Tropper… [proves] his ability to create touchingly human characters and a deliciously page turning story.”
Publishers Weekly on This is Where I Leave You

Library Journal
Silver was the drummer for the Bent Daisies, whose song "Rest in Pieces" briefly topped the charts. Then their lead singer went solo, and the band fell apart, along with Silver's marriage to Denise. Eight years later, 44-year-old Silver still lives in his hometown of Elmsbrook, NY, in an efficiency hotel with other lonely men. He plays the occasional wedding and bar mitzvah but mostly hangs out at the pool with Jack and Oliver. Silver knows he has messed up, especially his relationship with his daughter, Casey, but knowing how to fix things is too much for him. As Denise is about to remarry, Casey, 18 and going off to Yale, finds herself pregnant. She needs her dad. Before Silver can offer much aid, he collapses from an aortic aneurism and decides against having the lifesaving operation. VERDICT The richly talented Tropper (This Is Where I Leave You) has created an acerbic, middle-aged lost soul who will ultimately illuminate the reasons we stick around on this lopsided planet despite significant temptation to let it go. Readers will love Silver and want to throttle him in equal measure. Eminently quotable, hilariously funny, and emotionally draining, this arresting tour de force will entertain well after the book is done. [See Prepub Alert, 3/5/12.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Drew Silver is dying in many ways: his marriage has been over for seven years, his ex-wife is getting remarried, his career as a rock drummer is long past, his 18-year-old daughter is pregnant, and he has a life-threatening heart condition. Tropper finds unexpected humor in all of these incongruous elements. Silver has never been much of a dad or a husband, so when he finds out about his defective heart, he determines he will not have a life-saving operation. After all, what does he have to live for? He's lived long enough to see the breakup of his band, The Bent Daisies, and his music career ended with their one-hit wonder, "Rest in Pieces." Now he's living his days with other losers at The Versailles, a run-down motel. To his credit, the awareness of his precarious health causes him to rethink his pathetic life, and he's able to come up with a to-do list that includes "Be a better father. Be a better man. Fall in love. Die." By the end of the novel he's able to cross almost everything off. Knowing he's going to die concentrates his mind, and even the surgeon--both coincidentally and ironically his ex-wife Denise's fiancé--can't persuade Silver to undergo the operation. Silver is able, albeit briefly, to reestablish intimacy with Denise, and Casey, Silver's daughter, effects a temporary reconciliation that leads her to call her father "Dad" (which both perplexes and pleases him) instead of "Silver." In other words, what Silver ultimately achieves is to move beyond the inscription he imagines on his tombstone: his name, the years of his birth and death, and a phrase, the acronym for which is "WTF?" Tropper entertainingly examines the angst of middle-age masculinity as he looks at Silver, a man both growing up and growing old.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142196816
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 70,989
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Tropper

Jonathan Tropper is the New York Times bestselling author of five previous novels; Plan B, The Book of Joe, Everything Changes, How To Talk to a Widower, and This Is Where I Leave You. His books have been translated into over twenty languages. He is also a screenwriter, and the co-creator and executive producer of the HBO/Cinemax television show Banshee (produced by Alan Ball), premiering in 2013.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

This is Tuesday, just under three weeks before his wife will be getting married, and a few days before Silver will tentatively decide that life isn’t necessarily worth living when you’ve been doing it as poorly as he has. It is seven years and four months or so since Denise divorced him for a host of valid reasons, and roughly eight years since his band, the Bent Daisies, released its only album and became rock stars overnight on the strength of their solitary hit, “Rest in Pieces.” For one blessed summer it seemed as if the entire world was singing that song. And then they weren’t, and then he couldn’t get arrested—although, actually, Silver did get arrested twice; one DUI and once for solicitation, and he would tell you about it if he could, but he was, at best, fuzzy about the details back then, and now it’s like an oral history long forgotten. Then, with a little back-channel manipulation from the record label, Pat McReedy, their lead singer, quit the band to launch his now epic solo career, dropping Danny (bass), Ray (lead guitar), and Silver (drums) back home in Elms-brook to stare down the barrel of the rest of their painfully unglamorous lives. With nowhere else to go, Silver went back home to discover that Denise had already changed the locks and retained counsel.

But that was then, and this is Tuesday, eight years and countless mistakes later. Silver is forty-four years old, if you can believe it, out of shape, and depressed—although he doesn’t know if you call it depression when you have good reason to be; maybe then you’re simply sad, or lonely, or just painfully aware, on a daily basis, of all the things you can never get back.

And, this being Tuesday, Silver and Jack are on their way to jerk off.

“Is that a wedding ring?”

They are speeding down the highway in Jack’s ten-year-old BMW convertible when Jack notices the band on Silver’s finger. Jack is blasting hip-hop music and pretending to know the words, while Silver absently taps along on his knees to the automated beat. They are the same age, seasoned veterans of epically bad decisions and poor follow-through.

He forgot to take off the ring. God only knows how long he’s been wearing it. Hours? Days, maybe. His finger still bears the groove from when he was married, and whenever he slips it on, it slides into place like a machined part, and he forgets about it. Chagrined, he pulls it off his finger and sticks it into his pocket, to jingle around with his other loose change.

“What the fuck, Silver?” Jack says. He has to shout to be heard above the din of the interstate, the hip-hop, and the incessant ringing in Silver’s ears. Silver suffers from a moderate to severe case of tinnitus. There is no cure and, as far as he knows, no one is running any triathlons to raise awareness or fund research. He

suffers alone.

“I was just playing with it.”

“Is that your actual wedding band?”

“As opposed to what?”

“I don’t know, I thought maybe you went out and bought one.”

“Why the hell would I buy a wedding ring?”

“Why would you wear your old one, ten years after your divorce?”

“Seven years.”

“Sorry. Seven years. I stand corrected.”

Jack flashes him a sly little smile, the one that says I know you better than you know yourself, the one that generally makes Silver want to plunge his index finger through Jack’s eye socket, around the back of his nose, and out the other eye, creating an effective handle with which to rip his face off.

“Something wrong there, Silver?”

“What could be wrong? I’m a forty-four-year-old man on my way to masturbate into a cup for seventy-five dollars. Living the dream.”

Jack grins. “Easiest money you’ll ever make.”

A good amount of his time with Jack is spent wondering whether Jack actually believes his own particular brand of bullshit. They are two middle-aged divorced men, their friendship born of mutual inconvenience, because they happened to live on the same floor of the Versailles. Jack thinks Silver is depressed and Silver thinks Jack is an idiot and, at any given moment, both of them are generally right.

They are on their way to a satellite office of the Blecher-Royal Medical Research Facility, where they will check in, submit to the prick of a blood test, then submit their own pricks to a quick, sterile flurry of self-abuse and gracelessly come into specimen jars. They will accomplish this without the aid of any chemical lubricants, in the name of science, and for the weekly seventy-fivedollar stipend.

The drug trial in which they are enrolled—Jack found it online—is purported to be a new nonhormonal treatment for low sperm motility. Possible side effects include mood swings; dizziness; and, strangely, decreased libido, a fact the test administrator told them during the twenty-minute orientation without the slightest hint of irony.

You don’t want to hear about his deposit, about the small room overwhelmed by the liberal spraying of industrial-strength disinfectant, about the weathered porn magazines he won’t touch because of all the sticky hands that have already handled them. About the depressing little television on its teetering IKEA stand, and the small stack of DVDs, each case marked with either an H(etero) or a G(ay). Or about how he doesn’t sit in the chair or watch the discs, but just kind of stands in the center of the room with his pants around his ankles, calling up the images of girls he slept with back when he was young enough to be wholly consumed by a deep, passionate kiss, the sight of a freshly unsheathed breast, the smoky half-closed eyes of a girl in heat, looking up at you as she hungrily takes you in below.

But as always, just before his ejaculate hits the bottom of the specimen cup with a soft plastic burp, no matter how determined he is to avoid it, he sees Denise, frowning at him with her customary scorn, depleting the moment of whatever lingering molecular pleasure it may have retained.

A last sad grunt and squeeze, the cold damp of the baby wipe, and then the warmth of his semen against his fingertips through the thin plastic walls of the cup, more alive than anything coming out of him has any right to feel.

Chapter 2

Out in the lobby, Jack, already finished, is chatting up the receptionist. She isn’t his type—mousy-looking with a light smattering of adult acne across the edge of her jaw—but Jack likes to stay sharp. You never know who might be in the market for a house.

Jack is a real-estate agent, always with a business card tucked between two fingers, slipping it into your hand like a reverse pickpocket before you even realize he’s done it. He carries himself with the cocky swagger of someone who is always closing, whether he’s trying to talk someone into bed or a center-hall colonial. In fact, he is somewhat famous for often accomplishing both simultaneously. This went on back when he was still married, so it was only a matter of time, really. There was a Puerto Rican bartender. She showed up to his house at dinnertime, cursing at him in Spanish. His wife went after him, first with a meat tenderizer, and then with a team of lawyers from her father’s white-shoe law firm.

“There he is!” Jack says, announcing Silver’s presence to the entire office. “What, did you have to buy yourself dinner first? I was about to send Vicki here in to expedite things.”

Vicki smiles, embarrassed, maybe even offended, but somehow flattered too. That is Jack’s gift.

“I’m fine.” He hands Vicki his deposit without making eye contact, she hands him his check, and just like that, he has sold his seed. The cup is opaque, but still, the act of handing your sperm to a woman is one of those things that will never stop feeling creepy.

“Good job,” Jack says, slapping his back as they step out of the office into the afternoon sun.

This is my life, Silver thinks to himself, and, as always, tries like hell not to panic.

Mistakes have been made.

It’s hard to know where to start. Things have been a mess for so many years that trying to pin down a starting point is like trying to figure out where your skin starts. All you can ever really know is that it’s wrapped around you, sometimes a little tighter than you’d like.

But clearly there have been some mistakes. Bad ones. You can tell that just by looking at him.

For one thing, he has gotten fat. Not obese, not People magazine fat, but still. He has been on an extended hiatus from any kind of physical fitness. Do they even say “physical fitness” anymore? He isn’t sure. He hasn’t quite fallen apart yet, but the cracks are fast becoming fissures: an increasingly pronounced gut, incipient jowls, and the strategic application of baby powder in the warmer seasons to avoid chafing.

So as not to smell like baby powder, he uses excessive amounts of deodorant and generous helpings of Eternity, by Calvin Klein. He applies the cologne by spraying it into the air and then walking through the vapor, like he saw his mother do when he was a boy. So, yeah, now he’s the fat guy who smells like baby powder and too much cologne, who sits alone in Manny’s Famous Pizza leaving greasy fingerprints all over the book he isn’t actually reading while blotting the oil off his poorly shaved chin with a napkin, keeping an eye on all the pretty girls who come in.

You could be excused for thinking he is somewhat pathetic. Or maybe a pedophile.

Which is why lately he has gotten into the habit of wearing his old wedding band. Not because he misses Denise—he doesn’t at all, which is maybe a sad confirmation of what she always suspected about his overall emotional wherewithal—but because that gold band around his finger alters the whole picture, confers upon him some faint glimmer of respectability. It implies that he goes home to someone who finds redeeming qualities in him, who is ostensibly not averse to at least occasional physical contact with him, and that makes all of his obvious flaws seem more superficial, less ingrained. It could complicate things if he happens to strike up a conversation with an attractive woman, but the women he tends to engage these days are not, generally speaking, the sort who are going to blanch at a wedding band.

Chapter 3

His habit is to while away the depressing afterglow of his sperm deposit at The Last Page, a large independent bookstore in the quiet downtown area of Elmsbrook. He generally sits in the store’s small café, reading Rolling Stone and drinking a large soda, replenishing his fluids while he waits.

Lily arrives at a quarter to three, her long hair haphazardly tied into a loose ponytail knot that is already coming undone, blondish wisps spilling out and trailing her like a comet’s tail. Her hair has been dyed different shades of blond for so long that it has lost all genetic memory, so that her visible roots aren’t so much dark as confused. Her black tights are tucked into black cowboy boots, and her lean torso swims in a loose-fitting cardigan the color of dirt. She wears her guitar on her back, neck up, in a soft black case, like a ninja sword.

Silver watches her closely from his perch in the café. Imperfections abound: her prominent forehead, her small fighter’s nose, a misaligned lateral tooth. But the overall package has a pleasing composition to it, a fractured beauty that lingers for him even after she has moved past him into the Children’s Books section.

He loves her as much as any man can love a woman he’s never spoken to, which is significantly more than you’d think. It’s a pure love, epic in its own way. If the situation called for it, he’d step in front of a speeding bus for her. The only other person he would ever do that for is Casey, his daughter, whom he imagines might actually enjoy the spectacle. In eighteen years, he hasn’t exactly proven himself in the father department. The sad truth is, dying for Casey might be his only shot at redemption, and even then he doesn’t think it would help his case very much. Any idiot can die, right?

He moves furtively through the aisles of books like a shoplifter. He can already hear the soft sounds of Lily’s guitar, punctuated by the occasional hiss of the espresso machine in the bookstore’s café. She plays this gig twice a week, for the handful of three- and four-year-olds who sit in a small circle around her low styrene chair, sipping at their juice boxes and singing along while the assorted mix of nannies and au pairs chat softly amongst themselves in island dialects.

Silver stands in the Self-Help aisle, where he can listen without alarming anyone. Thirty Days to a Flat Stomach, Eating Your Way to a Thinner You, The Self-Esteem Workbook—a billion-dollar industry built on the questionable notion that people can be fixed. He pretends to browse while he watches Lily play. Her whole body moves as she strums, her light hair falling over her face like a curtain, and then she looks up at the kids and starts to sing.

The cat came back / the very next day / The cat came back / we thought he was a goner / but the cat came back / He just wouldn’t stay, away away away yeah yeah . . .

There is no way to explain this. It’s an inane kids’ song. And her thin voice wavers on the high notes and occasionally runs flat. But she sings with passion, like it’s a raw and earnest love song, her deepest pain set to music. The ridiculous song is much too small to contain her energy, and so it spills over, filling the room, filling him. The kids sing along tunelessly with the chorus—they’ve been here before—but her voice rises above them and floats around the ceiling fans of this scrappy little bookstore still clinging fiercely to life in the digital age. He can feel the familiar lump forming in his throat, the paradoxical sense of having lost something he never had. By the time she hits the third verse he is undone.

The man around the corner swore he’d shoot the cat on sight / He loaded up his shotgun with nails and dynamite / He waited and he waited for the cat to come around / Ninety-seven pieces of the man was all they found . . . / But the cat came back . . .

Every so often, clarity washes over him in a wave, drenching him with realizations and reminders of what he’s lost and who he has turned out to be. He lurks there, beyond help in the Self-Help section, a middle-aged mess of a man with restless legs, ringing ears, and an aching heart, fighting back the tears elicited by a woman he’s never met singing her heart out about the attempted murder of a cat.

The way he sees it, he’s teetering on that edge. By his estimation, he’s got maybe one last shot at any kind of real and lasting love, and that’s before you take into account his warped and deeply compromised faculty for it to begin with. He has loved more women than any man should. He doesn’t so much fall in love as dive-bomb it like a kamikaze pilot, fearless and at full throttle. He used to look at this propensity as a gift, then a curse, and now understands it to be just another way in which he is broken.

He’s been alone for a long time now, more than seven years. At some point, loneliness becomes less a condition than a habit. In time, you stop looking at your phone wondering why you can’t think of anyone to call, stop getting your hair cut, stop working out, stop thinking that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life. Because tomorrow is today, and today is yesterday, and yesterday beat the shit out of you and brought you to your knees. The only way to stay sane is to stop hoping for something better.

But there’s still something in him, a small pocket of insurgency that hasn’t fully conceded. There’s a part of him that still believes she’s out there, the woman who will see the man behind this shifting, splitting land mass, the woman who knows exactly what to do with the hopeless paradox of a kamikaze lover like him. And he knows that’s the part of him that has to finish dying if he’s ever going to sleep soundly again.

The first girl he ever loved was Sofie Kinslehour. She had a pixie haircut and a pink, horn-shaped birthmark on her neck, and the first time they kissed, she let out a small moan that conveyed a world of carnality he had only vaguely intuited up to that point. They were sixteen years old, in a dark corner of the parking lot behind the high school—there was a game of some kind going on— and when she moaned, he heard himself answer in kind, like she’d woken something up in him he didn’t know was there. She pressed the full length of herself against him, opening her mouth to accept his tongue. For the next few weeks, she occupied him like a conquering army. At home he tugged on himself so furiously and so often that at one point he feared real and lasting damage. When they were together they kissed themselves raw, until their lips were swollen, flaking husks, their tongues charley-horsed. And then, one day, it ended. He doesn’t remember the salient points, but statistical evidence and the cold spasm of regret in his belly whenever he thinks about it assure him that it was he who blinked first, who found a random flaw in her to cling to until it swallowed him whole.

Chapter 4

It’s summer, the air thick with that virulent East Coast humidity that shortens your breath and dampens the back of your shirt as soon as you step outside. He is sitting with Jack and Oliver in their usual chairs by the Versailles pool, trying, like everyone else, to look like he isn’t looking at the college girls.

Or maybe they are college women? He doesn’t know. They defy categorization, this gaggle of bronzed, bikinied students, stretched taut like pulled taffy on lounge chairs near the deep end of the pool. He is sitting in his usual spot between Jack and Oliver, catty-corner to the girls, pretending to read a magazine. All around the pool, other men sit, alone and in clusters, and they are all the same, all sad and depleted, abusing themselves with stolen glances at forbidden fruit.

“Will you look at those girls,” Jack says, probably for the third time. Silver tends to tune him out.

They don’t need him to tell them. They are men after all—not the men they once might have been, and not the men they maybe could be—but men, after a fashion. And these girls, these women . . . well, they glisten with nubile perfection under their SPF 15, baking their soft, unblemished skin to a honeyed glaze as they read from textbooks and tabloid magazines, tap away at texting devices encased in pink and red rubber, or listen to their iPods, their bare, manicured feet twitching to the music. They do that thing with their lips that girls do when they feel the music, puckering their lips, kind of kissing the air as their heads bob up and down.

The pool is supposed to be exclusively for residents of the Versailles, an efficiency hotel just off the interstate, but the girls come daily as Jack’s guests, and no one ever complains. They come from Hudson College, situated just four blocks away on the other side of Route 9. The semester is just starting up again, and the proximity of so many young, ripe women to a place like the Versailles is like keeping your matches and blasting caps in the same drawer.

Yes, he is living in an efficiency hotel. Mistakes.

The Versailles, a drab monolith that rises like a tombstone fourteen stories above the sailor’s knot of parkways and connecting ramps that feed into I-95, is the only apartment building within the Elmsbrook city limits. Years ago, it was converted into a residential hotel, where rooms can be rented at a weekly or monthly rate. As such, it has become the inevitable destination of all the sad, damaged men of Elmsbrook, banished from their homes in the wake of disintegrating marriages. An aura of failure hangs over the place—middle-aged men living on their own in small, sparsely furnished, subdivided hotel rooms. “He’s living in the Versailles, now,” people say, and everyone knows exactly what they mean. It is that building. The pool, the gym, the concierge, the plush lobby furniture; none of these amenities can obscure the fact that this is a place where broken men come to lick their wounds as the battles over marital assets and custody arrangements are slowly lost at a rate of roughly six-fifty an hour plus expenses.

In the framed architectural drawing that still hangs in the lobby, the building is rendered in a soft white that glints in the sun, surrounded by emerald lawns and a lush canopy of ash and oak trees. But the zoning board required a larger parking lot, so the lawn and trees and the little kids flying their red and yellow kites never made if off the drawing board, and the diesel exhaust rising off the nearby expressways has gradually turned the Versailles into a vertical slab the color of a thunderhead. It’s hard to fathom the logic of displaying this picture of the building in all its unrealized splendor, someone’s idea of a cruel joke, maybe, a blunt metaphor designed to effect a kind of subliminal torture on the residents.

Back when Silver was married, the building, in better shape then, was still something of a punch line, fatuously tacked onto the end of arguments. “If I’m so horrible, why don’t you just move out? I’m sure there’s a vacancy at the Versailles . . .” Like that. Cut to seven years later and here he is, the sum total of his existence confined to a two-bedroom efficiency eight floors up, alongside his brothers in arms, the men exiled from Elmsbrook’s tree-lined residential streets, from the carpeted and curtained warmth of solid, creaking Tudors and colonials, stripped of marriage and family but still paying for it in ways large and small. Paying the mortgages on houses in which they are no longer welcome, paying for their ex-wives’ new wardrobes and haircuts and facials and body waxings and gym memberships, all to tone, smooth, and buff bodies that they no longer get to touch, paying for the personal trainers who are probably fucking their wives and for their wives’ lawyers who are fucking them, and for their own lawyers who seem powerless to do anything about any of it except explain in lay terms exactly how they’ve been fucked. Paying for Little League and soccer and piano lessons and ice-skating and karate and Gap Kids and private school and speech therapy and tutoring and after-school programs and health insurance. Standing in the lobby, you can feel the building vibrating with the collected agitation of desperate men living in a constant state of subdued panic, in a permanent frazzle, avoiding bank statements, selling off dwindling assets, knowing that they can only keep this colossal mess aloft for so long before the whole thing comes crashing down in a miasma of courtroom vitriol and bankruptcy.

And so the men of the Versailles, brothers in disgrace, reach out to one another in the invisible ways that men do, and small, fragile friendships of convenience form like desert moss. They bitch and moan to sympathetic ears, preaching to the choir about the courts, the antiquated laws, the goddamn fucking lawyers, and this new, enforced, seemingly insurmountable poverty in which they have all landed. And when they aren’t bitching, they try like hell to believe that this isn’t a permanent state of affairs, that they can and will find love again, that they won’t die alone, that they will have some version of sex in the near future. But in the meantime, they will mope, drink to excess, and stare at women of an inappropriate age, searching for the silver lining, wondering when the perks will finally kick in.

***

Which brings us back to the college girls.

“I mean, just look at them, would you,” Jack says.

Jack is handsome in a manner that allows him to get away with this unabashed leering. He is tall and slim, built for shirtless lounging, with dark, wiry hair and the dimpled chin of a superhero. He and Silver had been casual acquaintances in their old lives, part of a loosely associated ring of husbands and fathers connected less by genuine friendship than by the friendship of their wives. And now they are connected by their absence. No one was happier about Silver’s divorce than Jack, who practically did a jig right there in the lobby when he took up residence in the Versailles.

“You look at them,” Oliver grumbles from beneath the crumpled baseball cap resting on his face. “I’m napping here.”

Oliver is in his late fifties, tall and beefy with loosening skin, tired eyes, and an ocean of whiskey under his belt. He is one of the few men who doesn’t have to live there; he is rich enough to live anywhere, really, but he likes the camaraderie. He has been married—count ’em—three times, has grown children who don’t speak to him, grandchildren he has never met. Oliver is fourteen years older than Silver, and Jack is an oversexed misogynist, but somehow, in a way he couldn’t retrace if he tried, they have wordlessly become a unit.

And here they lie, every day baking in the sun: Jack, long and lean, only now beginning to lose some of the definition in his abs and chest. Silver, thickened everywhere, like an aging baseball pitcher, and then Oliver, long gone to seed, his sagging beer gut rounding him out into something vaguely pear-shaped. Jack and Oliver are like Before and After pictures, and he is the softening middle stage, the moment it all went wrong.

“Sure, there’s the obvious,” Jack says, ignoring Oliver. “The anatomical advantages go without saying. But go deeper. Look at their eyes, the way they move, the way they laugh. They’re brimming with this . . . unspoiled sexuality. They still love men. They’re at least a thousand fucks away from the bitter, cynical women they all eventually become.”

“Or one night with you.”

“Ah, fuck you, Oliver.”

“They’re kind of young for you, aren’t they?” Silver says.

“Fuck no,” Jack says. “Who do you think is going to gratify these girls, college boys? Think back to when you were twenty. Sure, you were a walking hard-on, but were you any good? Did you really know how to please a woman? Did you even care to? No, all you knew was where to stick it, and nine out of ten times, you were finished before she’d even gotten started.”

Silver thinks of a girl, he can’t remember her name, lying beneath him in the sweaty confines of her cramped dorm single, her wide eyes looking up at him with unrestrained desire, and he feels something he’s become accustomed to lately, a dull, humming grief for all the things he can never get back.

“Forget what you think you know.” Jack is gathering momentum now, which is never a good thing. “These are not the girls you and I went to college with. This is an evolved species. They love sex. They love it and they want it, and they feel it’s their inalienable right to have it. These girls are feminists, God bless ’em.”

“Will you quit speechifying?” Oliver says. “I’m trying to relax over here.”

“Come on, Oliver, you know you’d take any one of these girls. A bottle of wine, a couple of Viagra, you’re good to go.”

Oliver pulls the cap off his face and squints at Jack. “But would any one of them take me?”

“What are you talking about? You’re a handsome man.”

“I am old and fat, and I survive by knowing my role in the jungle.”

“And what’s that?”

“The rich old toad who pays to occasionally have his cock munched,” Oliver says, pulling his cap back over his face. And right at that moment, Silver thinks, there is something vaguely toad-like about him.

The girls stretch and roll on their chairs, expertly opening the clasps on their bikini tops to avoid tan lines. They swing their legs, they rub lotion into their cleavages, lick their lips, play with their long hair. Jack lifts his Ray-Bans to squint at them, then laughs at the wonder of it all. “God in heaven,” he says.

Oliver farts, long and high, like air escaping from a pinched balloon.

“Christ, Oliver, take a pill,” Jack said.

This is what passes for his friends these days.

They are still sitting there, two hours later, when Casey shows up. The sun is high above them, the smell of tanning oil sizzling on the skin of the college girls wafting across the pool to tease their senses. Heard from a certain vantage point, the tractor-trailers thundering down the interstate can sound like the pounding surf. Silver is, as he so often seems to be these days, adrift in a hazy fog of memory, fantasy, and regret.

“Silver.”

And maybe, on his better days, the faintest glimmer of hope.

“Silver!”

Casey is walking purposefully toward him, in shorts and a breezy halter top, her almond-colored hair pouring down her back and billowing slightly in the faint summer breeze. As she gets closer, he can see that her face is lightly dusted with a horse-shoe-shaped constellation of freckles. Jack grunts, making a big show of not checking out his friend’s daughter.

“Hey there,” Casey says with that jaded nonchalance she reserves exclusively for him. As always, in the first instant he sees her, he can feel his heart suddenly shut down, the way you do in those first moments after impact, or, he supposes, when you’re drowning. Love or panic. The two have always been fairly indistinguishable to him.

“Hey, Casey.” He sits up in his lounge chair, suddenly self-conscious of his rolling gut, his unshaved face, the haircut he’s been meaning to get. “What are you doing here?”

She smiles as if his question has triggered a private joke. “What indeed?”

It will surprise no one to learn that he has not been anyone’s idea of a model father. In the seven years since his divorce he has missed, by design or neglect, more than his share of birthdays, recitals, varsity games, and more dinner dates than he dares to recall. His relationship with Casey gradually evolved from playful to strained to distant, and once puberty had had its way with her, her once habitual forgiveness became somewhat more elusive. He knows this is all his fault, knows he deserves far more contempt from her than she is capable of, but still, there’s something about hearing your little girl look down her nose at you and say “What indeed?” that makes you feel fractured beyond repair.

Casey looks them over, and he can see them through her eyes; Jack, the aging lothario, coasting on a witless charm that started to fade sometime in the late ’90s; Oliver, doughy and dour and old enough to be her grandfather; and himself, sweating through an extra-large T-shirt commemorating a band that stopped being cool before she was born. Her eyes briefly flit over to the college girls, then back to them with a cynical gleam and they are busted for being the sad, drooping ball sacks that they are.

It’s hard to get up smoothly while simultaneously straddling a lounge chair and sucking in your gut. He achieves verticality, but only after some graceless jostling with inertia, and somehow this simple effort leaves him flushed and breathless. The Versailles has a decent gym, and with all the time on his hands, you’d think he’d have wandered in there by now.

He kisses her cheek. She doesn’t cringe outwardly and he is ridiculously overjoyed.

“Look at you,” Jack says to her. “How old are you these days?”

“Eighteen.”

“Wow, that makes me feel old.”

“No, I think it’s probably your age that’s doing that.”

“Shazam!” Jack says. He does that sometimes. They don’t know why.

Casey rolls her eyes, essentially negating Jack’s existence, and looks at Silver. “I need to talk to you.”

“Is everything OK?

She appears to contemplate that for a moment. “Everything is peachy.”

“You want to go sit by the cabanas?” he says.

“Sure.”

As she walks ahead of him, he catches a glimpse of color, a flash of red on her shoulder.

“What’s that?”

“It’s just a rose,” she says defensively.

As far as tattoos go, it’s fairly restrained; a bloodred rose, with a single leaf, tattooed onto her scapula. Even shitty fathers can cry from something like that. But he has long since squandered any rights to paternal indignation, so he figures he might as well score a point.

“Nice.”

Casey smiles wryly, on to him. “You should see the one on my ass.”

“Jesus.”

“Focus, Silver. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

“Such as?”

She turns to face him, still smirking, but her eyes are wide and he can see her trembling.

“Such as,” she says, “I’m pregnant.”

There are moments when you can literally feel the planet spinning beneath you, so much so that you instinctively need to hold on to something. He gently grabs Casey’s arm and looks into her eyes and they stand there, with the world coming apart around them, both of them waiting to see what it is that he is going to say.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

In One Last Thing Before I Go is that rare thing: a brilliant success about a total failure. The novel chronicles a week in the life of its chronically inept protagonist Silver, a one-time rock star drummer and the author of the hit song, "Rest in Pieces." As the novel begins, Silver's glory days are long gone. Divorced, disheveled, sliding into a desperately lonely middle age, Silver inhabits the comically named Versailles, a depressing apartment complex inhabited mostly by men still reeling from their divorces or hoping for a miraculous reversal of fortune.

Things could hardly be worse for Silver. After their one hit song, the lead singer of the Bent Daises ditched the band for a fabulously successful solo career. His ex-wife Denise is marrying Rich, a surgeon with lots of money who Silver tries hard to hate even though Rich is one of the few people who likes him. His daughter Casey, who he has neglected for years, will barely speak to him. Rich is now more of a father to her than Silver has ever been. His only real friends are the oversexed Jack and paunchy alcoholic Oliver, both of them, like Silver, very unhappily divorced.

But things do get worse-a lot worse. Casey comes to him with the news that she's pregnant, seeking advice from the man whose track record of bad decisions speaks for itself. Soon after, Silver suffers a min-stroke and is found to have an aortic dissection, which will very likely cause a fatal aneurism if it's not operated on. This dire news is delivered by Rich himself, the man who will marry Silver's wife, "just the sort of karmic fart that is emblematic of his life these days" [p. 71]. Rich offers to perform the surgery needed to save Silver's life, but Silver declines, reasoning that he's rather not be restored to the sorry life he's been living for the past seven years.

His family tries hard to convince him to stay alive, organizing an intervention that goes horribly wrong, and accusing him of selfishness. His father, a rabbi, drags him to a bris, a bar mitzvah, a wedding, and a funeral, in an attempt to involve him in life's essential rites of passage. And still Silver resists. Faced with certain death, he resolves to be a better man, a better father, to fall in love-and to die.

The rest of the novel tracks Silver's attempts to complete the ultimate bucket list. His efforts are both aided and undercut by an inability to maintain a clear boundary between thinking and speaking. His mini-stroke has apparently killed his internal editor, and he blurts out, with comic and sometimes disastrous effects, everything that pops into his head. On the one hand, he speaks the truth (Jack says he liked him better when he knew how to lie); on the other, he offends practically everyone. He gets closer to Casey, but ends up in a fistfight with Rich. He attends a wedding at his father's insistence, makes a fool of himself, but then delivers a heartfelt speech to Casey, and ends up reliving a moment of rock stardom as the wedding band spontaneously breaks into "Rest in Pieces."

It's a strange journey Silver is on, and the twists and turns the novel takes, as well as the overarching uncertainty about whether or not Silver will live, keep the reader in a state of suspenseful expectation.

Along the way, One Last Thing Before I Go offers a wonderfully revealing glimpse into the psyche of a middle-aged divorced man, living in the fading afterglow of a brief moment of fame, who has messed up his marriage, been a bad father to his only daughter, and is now fully aware of just what he's lost. Indeed, the novel can be read as an extended exploration of failure and regret-an exploration that has largely been banished from an American culture obsessed with youth, glamour, the future, and what passes for success. But it is also a brilliantly insightful novel about what one does when given a choice between death and life, the ultimate escape and a chance to set things right.

ABOUT JONATHAN TROPPER

Jonathan Tropper is the internationally bestselling author of six novels: Plan B, The Book of Joe, Everything Changes, How To Talk to a Widower, This Is Where I Leave You, and One Last Thing Before I Go. His books have been translated into over twenty languages. This Is Where I Leave You, which he adapted as a feature film for Warner Brothers, is scheduled to shoot this summer with Shawn Levy directing. Jonathan is currently adapting the New York Times bestseller, One Last Thing Before I Go for JJ Abrams and Paramount Pictures. He is also the co-creator and executive producer of the television show Banshee, which premiered on Cinemax in January 2013. He lives in Westchester, NY.

A CONVERSATION WITH JONATHAN TROPPER

Q. You've had a great deal of professional success, as a bestselling author and screenwriter. How were you able to write about failure so convincingly in One Last Thing Before I Go?

I think anyone with any measure of success has to have known failure along the way. And writers, at any level, know failure every day, whether it's a bad day where nothing you wrote is worth anything, or it's a rejection of some kind. And personal failures, which is what this book is really about, bear no relation to professional success.

Q. How did Silver emerge for you as a character? What drew you to write about someone in his particular circumstances?

I wanted to write a book about what redemption looks like when it's really too late to fix your mistakes. In all of my other books, we meet the protagonist either at the moment of his mistake, or in the aftermath of it. But here is someone who made his mistakes almost a decade ago, and there's no going back, no fixing the damage that's been done. So I was really interested in exploring what that feels like, the underlying regret that informs every day of his life - and how someone in that circumstance can find some measure of peace or redemption.

Q. All the characters in the novel, but Silver especially, experience mixed emotions. Looking around the restaurant where he used to go when he was married, Silver feels "both relief and regret" [p. 141]. When Lily invites him to her show, he feels "simultaneously hopeful and angry at himself for being so" [p. 281]; observing Denise and Casey at the wedding he feels "jealous and grateful and flushed with shame all at once" [p. 301]. Could you talk about this prevalence of mixed emotions? Does rendering the often contradictory feelings of your characters seem more true to life than having them be dominated by a single emotion? Was this a conscious strategy?

I don't think strategy is really the right word. It's my opinion that it's very rare to be utterly consumed by a single, concrete emotion. We're just not wired like that. So at any given point, our prevailing emotional state is being undercut by secondary and tertiary considerations. So when I read about characters lost in one emotion, I tend to feel the "writing," instead of believing in a fully wrought, three dimensional character.

Q. Why did you decide to leave the novel so open-ended? Were you tempted to resolve it, one way or the other?

(Spoiler Alert!) To me, there was no other way to end this story. Silver has finally taken some new steps, he has changed, he has acquired the wisdom and purpose that he was lacking when we met him. He has, in his own quiet way, been redeemed. So the truth is, at this point, whether he lives or not is immaterial, from the perspective of narrative.

Q. This novel is such a joy to read, it seems like it would have been great fun to write. Was it? How long did you work on it?

Not as fun as you would think. Certainly there were parts that were fun to write, and when it's going well it always feels good. But this is a darker book, thematically, than my past novels, and sometimes diving into those themes took it's toll. I was also working on the script for This Is Where I Leave You, and my television show, and I was pretty much writing around the clock. So while I was very happy with the ultimate result, I was a bit frazzled and stressed and so I don't think "fun" would really be the right word.

Q. The story takes so many surprising turns-did you plot these out or did they just emerge in the natural trajectory of the writing?

I rarely outline at the outset - though I always have a pretty general idea of where I'm headed. Every so often, while I'm writing it one way, an idea will occur to me to take it in another direction, very spontaneously. I find it's a good practice to follow those impulses. They don't always work, but when they do, they can be fantastic.

Q. How do you regard the new novel in relation to your previous work? Does it enter new territory for you?

Yes. This novel is somewhat darker than my previous ones - not less hopeful, but I had to work harder to find the hope. This one deals with regret and the passage of time in a way my others haven't. It's still funny, but also a bit more tragic. And, unbelievably, this is the first of my books that I've written in the third person, which freed me up to get out of my protagonists head and into varied points of view, which I really enjoyed.

Q. One Last Thing Before I Go seems like a perfect fit for the big screen. Could you talk about the process of adapting the novel for film? Can you tell us who is going to play Silver? When will the film start shooting?

It was a tricky adaptation. So much of the novel centers on Silver's compromised thought processes - his raging internal monologue, none of which can make it into the movie. So it took a lot of thought, and then some trial and error to really land on the right balance that would work in a film. It's too early to publicly discuss the potential casting, so I'll just say that what has been discussed is very exciting and unexpected. JJ Abrams will be producing the movie, and it's been a blast working with him - he's a filmmaker I've always wanted to work with. And Mike Nichols, one of my idols, is in talks to direct. So It's all still in the early stages where everything can fall through at any moment, but right now it's looking very exciting.

Q. What can readers expect from you next?

Well, I'm answering these questions on the set of This Is Where I Leave You, which has a dream cast and should be out in about a year. In the meantime, I've been getting ready to dive into a new novel. I haven't cracked it yet, but I know the basic premise and I'm starting to get very excited about it. And for those who are watching Banshee, our second season airs in January 2014.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • What makes Silver such an engaging and likable character despite his many flaws and mistakes, his talent for saying and doing the wrong thing at the worst possible time?
  • To what extent were you able to identify with Silver, his sense of failure, of messing everything up and then suffering pangs of regret?
  • One Last Thing Before I Go is both brilliantly funny and deeply moving. What are some of its most hilarious moments? What are some of its most touching scenes?
  • Why does Silver refuse to have the operation that would save his life? Does this decision make a certain kind of sense, given Silver's life and circumstances, or is he being selfish, as his mother and father claim? How do his friends and family try to convince him that he should keep living?
  • One of the effects of Silver's mini-strokes is that he can't censor his speech or clearly recognize when he's just thinking, or thinking out loud. This creates some wonderfully comic moments, but also some serious ones. In what ways does Silver speaking so directly and truthfully, saying the things that most of us think but edit out, bring him closer to the people he loves? In what instances does it cause embarrassment, or worse? Is there anything enviable about this condition?
  • When Casey asks Jack why he's so attracted to younger women, Jack replies: "We don't get to decide who we're attracted to. Believe me, I wish we did. I'd still be married. And you wouldn't be pregnant. None of us would be in this mess. I love my wife. I'd give anything to be with her right now. I mean, look at us. We're intelligent people, but sex has nothing to do with intelligence. It's impulse and instinct and animal attraction and it's built into our cells. I know that's not what they teach you in school right before they hand out the condoms, but that's what it is. And I'm not saying I like it. It's a goddamn tragedy is what it is" [p. 162]. Is Jack right about this? In what ways does the novel give us a glimpse-or, rather, a prolonged and probing look-into the male psyche? Do you view the predicament of middle-aged divorced men more sympathetically after reading the novel?
  • After Silver gets his death sentence, he resolves to be a better man and a better father. Does he succeed? In what ways do he and Casey become closer?
  • Why does Ruben, Silver's father, drag him along to a series of Jewish rituals-a bris, a bar mitzvah, a wedding, and a funeral? What effects do these experiences have on Silver?
  • After an intervention that goes terribly wrong, as Silver's brother Chuck is about to storm out of the house, Silver asks him, "Where are you going?" Chuck replies, "I don't know where I'm going. Away from you." Silver grabs the bottle of kiddish wine and says: "I'll come with." What is so surprising about this scene [p. 173-180]?What are some of the novel's other stunning twists and turns? What is the effect of really not knowing what might happen next?
  • Why does Denise sleep with Silver, even though she's engaged to Rich? Would it have been a mistake for Denise and Silver to get back together?
  • Why do you think Tropper chooses to leave the novel so open-ended? In what ways does the ending seem fitting? Is it satisfying or frustrating? What do you think Silver's fate will be?
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 21, 2012

    After reading the exert,this will be a good read . It has potent

    After reading the exert,this will be a good read . It has potential of
    becoming a favorite to many readers. It also appears to be the the kind
    of Lit. that after a few months a person can pick it up and read it
    over again and still receive enjoyment.

    4 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    Another fantastic book by Jonathan Tropper

    Tropper's newest book is a thought provoking, laugh out loud look at life and the mistakes we all make along the way. Tropper has an uncanny ability to write novels that resonate with a diverse population of readers and One Last Thing Before I Go is no exception. Awesome book and highly recommended!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2012

    Asadcommentary of family life in today's world. When father and

    Asadcommentary of family life in today's world. When father and mother are divorced, their daughter falls prey to their lives. The speak to her freely about theirs and hers sexual acts. Too much use of the "FBomb" for my taste. I enjoyed the premise of the story but not the crudeness in the family relationships.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2013

    Jonathan Tropper captures the world of disfunctional families be

    Jonathan Tropper captures the world of disfunctional families better than any other author I've read. The sattire lends humor to seemingly hopeless situations and the characters, though broken, are loveable and relateable. 'One Last Thing Before I Go' kept a steady pace of intrigue and, at times, touched my heart. Overall, a great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Wonderful book I laughed and I cried

    The author tells a story about life and the endless mistakes we all make along the way. Told so beautifully we can all see parts of ourselves.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2013

    Tropper is consistently excellent. This book is no exception. Po

    Tropper is consistently excellent. This book is no exception. Poignant, funny...just a great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2012

    Not my favorite Tropper book but still a good read

    Tropper has a gift for writing such vivid characters. He perfectly blends the crass with great humor and can make you care about seemingly unlikable characters. There is a depth and soul to his stories that so many authors only scratch the surface of. Glad I stumbled upon this new book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Another Tropper hit!

    Another Tropper hit!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2013

    Wonderful

    Just wonderful

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2013

    WHAT THE FUCK?

    So?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2013

    Ok, this is making me crazy... did he live or die???

    Ok, this is making me crazy... did he live or die???

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    Mating Place for Other Animals

    ~Bluewind

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 28, 2014

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