A riotously funny, emotionally raw New York Times bestselling novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind—whether we like it or not.
The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd's wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio- shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out of control as longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions are reawakened. Then Jen delivers the clincher: she's pregnant...
“Often sidesplitting, mostly heartbreaking...[Tropper is] a more sincere, insightful version of Nick Hornby, that other master of male psyche.”—USA Today
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING JASON BATEMAN, TINA FEY, JANE FONDA, AND ADAM DRIVER
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||758 KB|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Dad’s dead,” Wendy says off handedly, like it’s happened before, like it happens every day. It can be grating, this act of hers, to be utterly unfazed at all times, even in the face of tragedy. “He died two hours ago.”
“How’s Mom doing?”
“She’s Mom, you know? She wanted to know how much to tip the coroner.”
I have to smile, even as I chafe, as always, at our family’s patented inability to express emotion during watershed events. There is no occasion calling for sincerity that the Foxman family won’t quickly diminish or pervert through our own genetically engineered brand of irony and evasion. We banter, quip, and insult our way through birthdays, holidays, weddings, illnesses. Now Dad is dead and Wendy is cracking wise.
It serves him right, since he was something of a pioneer at the forefront of emotional repression.
“It gets better,” Wendy says.
“Better? Jesus, Wendy, do you hear yourself?”
“Okay, that came out wrong.”
“He asked us to sit shiva.”
“Who are we talking about? Dad! Dad wanted us to sit shiva.”
Wendy sighs, like it’s positively exhausting having to navigate the dense forest of my obtuseness. “Yes, apparently, that’s the optimal time to do it.”
“But Dad’s an atheist.”
“Dad was an atheist.”
“You’re telling me he found God before he died?”
“No, I’m telling you he’s dead and you should conjugate your tenses accordingly.”
If we sound like a couple of callous assholes, it’s because that’s how we were raised. But in fairness, we’d been mourning for a while already, on and off since he was first diagnosed a year and a half earlier. He’d been having stomachaches, swatting away my mother’s pleas that he see a doctor, choosing instead to increase the regimen of the same antacids he’d been taking for years. He popped them like Life Savers, dropping small squibs of foil wrapping wherever he went, so that the carpets glittered like wet pavement. Then his stool turned red.
“Your father’s not feeling well,” my mother understated over the phone.
“My shit’s bleeding,” he groused from somewhere behind her. In the fifteen years since I’d moved out of the house, Dad never came to the phone. It was always Mom, with Dad in the background, contributing the odd comment when it suited him. That’s how it was in person too. Mom always took center stage. Marrying her was like joining the chorus.
On the CAT scan, tumors bloomed like flowers against the charcoal desert of his duodenal lining. Into the lore of Dad’s legendary stoicism would be added the fact that he spent a year treating metastatic stomach cancer with Tums. There were the predictable surgeries, the radiation, and then the Hail Mary rounds of chemo meant to shrink the tumors but that instead shrank him, his once broad shoulders reduced to skeletal knobs that disappeared beneath the surface of his slack skin.
Then came the withering of muscle and sinew and the sad, crumbling descent into extreme pain management, culminating with him slipping into a coma, the one we knew he’d never come out of. And why should he? Why wake up to the painful, execrable mess of end-stage stomach cancer? It took four months for him to die, three more than the oncologists had predicted. “Your dad’s a fighter,” they would say when we visited, which was a crock, because he’d already been soundly beaten. If he was at all aware, he had to be pissed at how long it was taking him to do something as simple as die. Dad didn’t believe in God, but he was a life- long member of the Church of Shit or Get Off the Can.
So his actual death itself was less an event than a final sad detail.
“The funeral is tomorrow morning,” Wendy says. “I’m flying in with the kids tonight. Barry’s at a meeting in San Francisco. He’ll catch the red-eye.”
Wendy’s husband, Barry, is a portfolio manager for a large hedge fund. As far as I can tell, he gets paid to fly around the world on private jets and lose golf games to other richer men who might need his fund’s money. A few years ago, they transferred him to the L.A. office, which makes no sense, since he travels constantly, and Wendy would no doubt prefer to live back on the East Coast, where her cankles and post- pregnancy jiggle are less of a liability. On the other hand, she’s being very well compensated for the inconvenience.
“You’re bringing the kids?”
“Believe me, I’d rather not. But seven days is just too long to leave them alone with the nanny.”
The kids are Ryan and Cole, six and three, towheaded, cherub-cheeked boys who never met a room they couldn’t trash in two minutes flat, and Serena, Wendy’s seven-month-old baby girl.
“That’s how long it takes to sit shiva.”
“We’re not really going to do this, are we?”
“It was his dying wish,” Wendy says, and in that single instant I think maybe I can hear the raw grief in the back of her throat.
“Paul’s going along with this?”
“Paul’s the one who told me about it.”
“What did he say?”
“He said Dad wants us to sit shiva.”
Paul is my older brother by sixteen months. Mom insisted I hadn’t been a mistake, that she’d fully intended to get pregnant again just seven months after giving birth to Paul. But I never really bought it, especially after my father, buzzed on peach schnapps at Friday-night dinner, had acknowledged somberly that back then they believed you couldn’t get pregnant when you were breast-feeding. As for Paul and me, we get along fine as long as we don’t spend any time together.
“Has anyone spoken to Phillip?” I say.
“I’ve left messages at all his last known numbers. On the off chance he plays them, and he’s not in jail, or stoned, or dead in a ditch, there’s every reason to believe that there’s a small possibility he’ll show up.”
Phillip is our youngest brother, born nine years after me. It’s hard to understand my parents’ procreational logic. Wendy, Paul, and me, all within four years, and then Phillip, almost a decade later, slapped on like an awkward coda. He is the Paul McCartney of our family: better-looking than the rest of us, always facing a different direction in pictures, and occasionally rumored to be dead. As the baby, he was alternately coddled and ignored, which may have been a significant factor in his becoming such a terminally screwed-up adult. He is currently living in Manhattan, where you’d have to wake up pretty early in the morning to find a drug he hasn’t done or a model he hasn’t fucked. He will drop off the radar for months at a time and then show up unannounced at your house for dinner, where he might or might not casually mention that he’s been in jail, or Tibet, or has just broken up with a quasi-famous actress. I haven’t seen him in over a year.
“I hope he makes it,” I say. “He’ll be devastated if he doesn’t.”
“And speaking of screwed-up little brothers, how’s your own Greek tragedy coming along?”
Wendy can be funny, almost charming in her pointed tactlessness, but if there is a line between crass and cruel, she’s never noticed it. Usually I can stomach her, but the last few months have left me ragged and raw, and my defenses have been depleted.
“I have to go now,” I say, trying my best to sound like a guy not in the midst of an ongoing meltdown.
“Jesus, Judd. I was just expressing concern.”
“I’m sure you thought so.”
“Oh, don’t get all passive-aggressive. I get enough of that from Barry.”
“I’ll see you at the house.”
“Fine, be that way,” she says, disgusted. “Good-bye.”
I wait her out.
“Are you still there?” she finally says.
“No.” I hang up and imagine her slamming her phone down while the expletives fly in a machine-gun spray from her lips.
What People are Saying About This
“In a wry domestic tone nicely akin to Tom Perotta’s, Mr. Tropper . . .introduces a darkly entertaining bunch of dysfunctional relatives. . . . This author’s strong suit is wisecracks, the more irreverent the better.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Often sidesplitting, mostly heartbreaking…. [Tropper’s] a more sincere, insightful version of Nick Hornby, that other master of male psyche.”—USA Today
“Hilarious and often heartbreaking… a novel that charms by allowing for messes, loose ends and the reality that there's only one sure ending for everyone.”—The Los Angeles Times
“[A] magnificently funny family saga…. Read and weep with laughter. Grade: A”—Entertainment Weekly
“The novel is artful and brilliant, filled with colorful narratives and witty dialogue. ... [Tropper] can find the funny in any situation.”—Associated Press
“Tender and unexpectedly hilarious."—People.com
“Jonathan Tropper is a genius.”—Jane Green
“Jonathan Tropper is the new breed of novelist who writes for men and women with ease and grace.”—Haven Kimmel
“A beautifully crafted book of enormous heart . . . utterly magnificent.”—Augusten Burroughs on The Book of Joe
“Tropper’s book is a smart comedy of inappropriate behavior at an inopportune time.”—Publishers Weekly on How to Talk to a Widower
“A mixture of mourning and mockery . . . surprisingly moving.”—Entertainment Weekly on How to Talk to a Widower
Reading Group Guide
Within the space of a few weeks, Judd Foxman has learned about his wife's fourteen month affair with his misogynist, radio shock-jock boss - only because he walked in on them having sex in his bedroom and that his emotionally-distant, cancer-stricken father has finally passed away. And now, Judd discovers, he's being asked to sit shiva, and mourn according to the Hebrew custom for seven uninterrupted days with the remaining members of his highly dysfunctional family.
Between his older brother Paul's decades-long resentment, his sister-in-law's hysterics over her infertility, his younger brother's pre-midlife crisis with a much older woman, his sardonic older sister's callous, absentee husband, his mother's age-inappropriate manner of dressing, and - the reason they're all gathered together - his father's death, Judd barely has time to fixate on his own disaster of a marriage and his lack of a distinct and promising future. And yet he does fixate on it, especially when his soon-to-be-ex wife shows up and announces that she's pregnant, and that the child is his.
With deftly wrought prose and marvelous comedic sense, author Jonathan Tropper brings a grieving Jewish family vividly to life. As day after day of the shiva passes, the Foxman family uncover years of repressed bitterness, confusion, anger, and finally, love for one another. This Is Where I Leave You is an engaging and moving novel, examining the reasons behind our most loving and unloving actions, and exploring our complicated, contradictory relationships with those we call our family.
ABOUT JONATHAN TROPPER
Jonathan Tropper is the author of How to Talk to a Widower, Everything Changes, The Book of Joe, andPlan B. He lives with his family in Westchester, New York, where he teaches writing at Manhattanville College. He is currently adapting This Is Where I Leave You as a feature film for Warner Brothers Studios.
A CONVERSATION WITH JONATHAN TROPPER
Q. What inspired you to write a book about a fairly secular family observing a traditional Hebrew mourning ritual? Did this situation or premise motivate you to write the book, or was it Judd Foxman's distinctive voice that developed first?
This novel was always first and foremost Judd's book. As a matter of fact, I was writing his story before the idea of the shiva ever occurred to me. I wanted to tell the story of a man who loses everything that he thought defined who he was; his marriage, his career, his home. For me, it was going to be a very intimate look at one man's rock bottom. But then, around a hundred pages in, I wrote a chapter where Judd goes to see his nuclear family - for his father's seventieth birthday, actually. And in writing Judd's siblings and mother, I found that the novel came alive in a way it hadn't up until then. So I decided I had to turn the novel over to them. But what would make a guy in Judd's situation go spend any significant amount of time with his grown siblings in his mother's home. And that's when I came up with the idea of the shiva. All that was left was to kill off his father and convert them all to Judaism.
Q. Despite its serious and emotional subjects, the book is filled with comedic moments that can make the reader laugh out loud. Which part did you enjoy writing the most? Do you, generally, find the humorous moments or the somber moments in your fiction easier to write?
I actually don't find a difference in writing something funny or something somber. Both require just the right touch. I spend a lot of time fine tuning, focusing on word choice, on tone, and on rhythm. A funny line can become a lot less so with one or two extra beats in it. Likewise, a somber sentence can be undone with excessive verbiage or poor word choice. It's the same balancing act, regardless of what the goal is.
Q. Also, what do you find most interesting about the combination of the profane and the sacred (like when the Foxman brothers smoke weed after reading a Kaddish for their father)? Did you work to put moments like this in the book, or do you think they happened naturally because of the characters and the situation(s) they were in?
I think there's a certain irreverence that permeates this book, which is a direct consequence of the fact that you have a group of irreligious people being coerced into a somber religious ritual. So the very premise was a mixing of the sacred and profane, the Foxmans being a fairly profane bunch to begin with. It was certainly not my intention to mock Judaism or religion in any way, but simply to convey how these siblings, raised in a fairly godless house, would find the concepts so alien.
When I wrote about the family going to temple to say Kaddish, it was actually the point in the story where, despite their ignorance and lack of faith, the ritual actually served a purpose for them. In the moment, despite the strangeness of it, the family is nevertheless moved and comforted by the religious ritual. The fact that, ten minutes later the boys light up some doobage in one of the Hebrew School classrooms does not nullify what happened in the temple, although it does serve as a fantastic counterpoint. I mean, really, who hasn't gotten high at temple at some point in his life?
Q. You've been working on a screenplay of this book for Warner Bros. What has it been like working on a screenplay of a book you wrote? What are some of the biggest challenges of writing for the screen, and how do they differ from writing a novel? What did you learn about writing and character development, dialogue, plot development, and other elements of narrative through completing a screenplay?
Adapting this novel for the screen has been surprisingly painstaking and difficult. I know that's not the answer most people expect, but it's the reality. I've written original screenplays and adapting my own book was by far the hardest script I've ever undertaken. The first mistake was doing it so soon after I finished the book. The characters and events were still so fresh to me, that world was still so visible to me, that making the necessary changes for the screenplay did not come easily. To adapt successfully, you have to be able to discard certain underlying frameworks and givens established by the author. When you are the author, that's harder than it sounds. And when you've written it so recently, and are still so close to it, it's even harder. I was on book tour while I was writing the script and it reached a point where I could no longer keep straight what happens in the book and what happens in the script. But ultimately, I think I nailed it, and I'm really hoping they make the movie.
Q. What are you working on now? What will we see from you in the near future, either in a bookstore or in the movie theatre?
Right now I'm writing another novel for Dutton. I never say what it's about because I've discovered that my process is generally to only figure that out when I'm halfway through, and then rewrite the whole damn thing. So while I think I know what the new book is about, I've done this too many times to really be sure of anything anymore.
I'm also going to be adapting The Pleasure of My Company, a fantastic novel written by Steve Martin, for Twentieth Century Fox, which is something I'm very excited about.
I enjoy being able to write both novels and screenplays; it's a kind of creative diversification. The processes are very different and you use different mental muscles. But at heart, and in practice, I'll always be a novelist first. I think like a novelist, and whenever I come up with a story, I conceive it in novelistic terms, not screenwriting terms.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jonathan Tropper is known for his hilarious and clever novels, and he does not disappoint with his latest creation, This Is Where I Leave You. Judd Foxman's life is a mess. He comes home early from work to find his beautiful wife, Jen, in bed with another man. And not just any man, but his boss. After moving out of his charming suburban home and into a shoddy basement apartment, he is informed of his father's death. Suprisingly, although he was never a religious man, his dad's dying wish was for his family to sit Shiva for one week, in his honor. Reluctantly, Judd heads to his mother's house. Judd's family is a comedy lover's dream. Dysfunctional doesn't even begin to describe this clan. His mother is a world renowned parenting expert who can't even begin to understand her own children. His youngest brother, Philip, is a playboy who is constantly finding himself in one crisis or another. He comes to the family home with a guest that no one can quite figure out. Paul, his older brother, harbors a lot of resentment towards Judd. He and his wife are also struggling with fertility issues. His sister, Wendy, is his rock. But she is stuck is a loveless marriage and dealing with her own romantic disasters. Now all these siblings are forced to stay under the same roof. Add to this list a number of oddball mourners who come to pay their respects and you've got a week of dysfunctional comic drama. The repercussions are laugh out loud funny and poignant at the same time. As I read this book, I couldn't help but think that it would make an amazing movie. The characters are just so oddly lovable and relatable. The family dynamic is incredibly familiar and easy to identify with. The Foxman's are everyone's family. Sure, they are somewhat eccentric and manipulative, but the love they have for each other is clear. Yes, they may despise each other at times, but underneath the chaos is an undying loyalty to each other. And isn't that pretty much how every family works?
I picked this book on a whim, merely for it's title and was an amazing result of judging a book by it's cover. Tropper's writing is so realistic, half way through I had to remind myself I wasn't reading a biography, but a work of fiction. He crafts his characters very well, and you have no choice but to sympathize and empathize with these people. They are very real. The book tugs at your heart and gives you hope, and is not fantastical in any sort of way. It caused me to then continue reading books by Tropper, and I have yet to be disappointed. This is great for realists and romantics and people plagued by their own thoughts.
This is the first book I have read by Jonathan Tropper, and I am now hooked. He pulls you in with his writing style, and I found myself drawn in by the first page. Great story, I definitely recommend it.
this is one of the best written views on how men handle conflicts that happen in a relationship. some of the dialogue was tedious, but overall it was insightful from a man's point of view. i felt bad for him, and i was mad at his wife for her lack of respect to bring someone into their home (bed) but some people do this w/o thinking of the effect it has on the other person. only thing i didn't like was situation was left unresolved and i like books to complete the cycle.
I thought this book was absolutely hilarious and, at times, heartbreaking. The dialogue was out of the park good.
This is a great read. I did not want to put it down. Jonathan had me laughing out loud throughout the book. He makes you feel as if you know everyone in the book. Must read....
LOVED this book. I went out and bought another Tropper book the next week. This book was at times sad and poignant, but Tropper really does a wonderful job of bringing the humor out of dark scenarios. This is one book that will both make you laugh out loud and feel slightly guilty reading in public.
I absolutely loved this book. Its definitely very adult-themed. So if you are offended by talk about sex, then its best to stay away. The writing is spot on and its probably one of the better, and funniest, books that I have read in a long time. Usually I'm a person who enjoys the thriller genre, but I delved into this book quickly and never looked back. And I don't think I've laughed so loud reading a book EVER! Buy it, and enjoy it ... books like these come along once in a lifetime! I never heard of Jonathan Tropper until this book, and I immediately went back to B&N and purchased his other novels. He really is a great, and funny writer.
I laughed out loud, I cried, I loved this book! If you want to be thrown right into the middle of a family that is dysfunctional, funny, hurting and more real than fiction, then you should read this book!
This is book is compulsively readable and entertaining. It is at once laugh out loud funny and heartbreaking. I read it in about three days. However, it is not lacking in substance or quality as some quick, easy reads are. The novel is ripe with genuine emotion, characters, and humor.
One of the most entertaining books I have read in the last year. A bit graphic for me, brutally honest character, but sooo funny.
This is one of my favorite books. The characters come alive in the pages with all their flaws and quirks. I couldn't put it down, and I thought the humor was spectacular. I have already given a couple of copies to my friends to enjoy.
This book was amazingly funny. Jonathan Tropper has a way of painting a scene with words. This was the first book i havecread by him and it wont be the last
I loved this book, the characters are damaged, sad, and hilarious. It's the dysfunctional family at it's best. I will read more of his books.
A lot of humor that everybody gets. A couple things that only fellows will laugh at (or laugh at differently). Really liked his writing style! Often found myself saying "Hah! Cool! I like the way he said that. =)" Was a little surprised by the ending - not in a disappointing way.
Remember that time at your last family reunion when your Uncle Sal pinched your fiancee? In Tropper's world, it would have been your widowerer Father, and he would have wound up scoring with aforementioned fiancee in your childhood bedroom...from whence your shiftless younger brother runs his webcam porn business...thereby ensuring world-wide-web-broadcasting of the event. And that would have just been the first five minutes home. Hilarious and poignant by turns, Tropper navigates familial emotional minefields like nobody else today, keeping his larger-than-life wack-tastic characters shockingly real and vulnerable. Don't read this while drinking anything you'd mind snorting out your nose.
This book had me reading everyday in bed until I was through and even then I wanted to find out what happens in the future for each person I invested in for a few days. The main character captured real life hurt and trauma in betrayal of marriage. Love and hate at the same time. Throw in family in a close confined space at the same time and you got this book. My only quibble is the overuse of sex through out the book. Thinking about it. Talking about it. Acting on it. We get it already and it did distract from the story of a grown man dealing with unexpected news. But get pass all that and the gem is there waiting to laugh, maybe cry and simply enjoy this family while thinking of your own road travelled in family and marriage relationships. I know I did.
I never write reviews, but I felt compelled for this book. I laughed from page one. I was sitting on the beach reading this and my husband said that people were looking at me because I was laughing so loudly! The characters were well developed, and the story was heart-warming. I wasn't offended by the language at all, but some people might be. I couldn't wait to read another book by Mr. Tropper, and I just finished "One Last Thing Before I Go". It was also very good.
I really enjoyed this story. This is the first I have read of Jonathan Tropper. I enjoyed his style and truths, sometimes the insights seem to clear, but then I remembered how grief and life changing experiences sometimes can ring your bell. This story does that, the characters are very well rounded. We love to hold onto our hurts and indignation, until we discover everyone has their own truth and pain as well. I look forward to reading his earlier works.
Great book. It kept my interest until the very end. I can totally see Justin Bateman playing this character. I can't wait for the movie to come out.
This book is so brilliantly real. The dialogue between the members of the Foxman family is so authentic and perfectly captures the dynamic between each member of the dysfunctional, yet heartwarming family. I bought this book on a whim and I'm so glad I did. The characters are all so relatable and the book as a whole made me feel like my family isn't the only one with unspeakable problems. This is a really entertaining story that I highly recommend.
The second book i have read from this author...i loved it! Judd and his family will remain in my memory for a long time. I laughed out loud in public while reading and bookmarked passages for sentimental commentaries. A fantastic read.
I have never laughed so much at a book. This book is hilarious. The characters are flawed in amazing and amusing ways. This family is one complex and crazy family. And between laughs, there are some really good philosophies, psychologies and some true and meaningful insights into life. What a joy to read. I'm already ordering my next Tropper book.
Page turner about real-life funny family drama. Easy read!
This is not the book for you if... *Foul language bothers you *Listening to a mans point of view told in crude words offends you *if you cant laugh or even find light in a dark situation I personally can! And loved this book it is LAUGH OUT LOUD funny .. the topics are dark,sad even heartbreaking but the way it is wrote puts a spin on it that you cant help but smile