12/31/13

Favorite Book of the Year . . .

I bought Jonathan Tropper's fifth novel "This is Where I Leave You" in 2010/2011 (shortly after it came out). I had read a review of it and it looked promising. I enjoyed Everything Changes (Tropper is a fantastic American writer I would put in the same category/genre/wheelhouse as Nick Hornby).

I just never cracked the cover. I always something else to read or do. It got caught up in a stack of books and chaos ensued and the next thing I knew it was nearly two years later and I was moving out of the family home. It got thrown in one of my many book boxes.

I cracked the cover the week I found out I was losing my job in January, 2013. The timing could not have been better.

The novel tells the story of the Foxmans - a family with significant dysfunction and a recently-deceased father. The children all return home (their own sub-crises in tow) to sit shiva for their patriarch and things get awkward from there.

At once funny, sad, encouraging, and challenging, the central character, Judd's, story unfolds. His wife has left him for his boss, following the loss of a pregnancy, and some general woes between them. She returns to him - pregnant. In the meantime his mother (who prides herself on being a fantastic mother) is in deep denial about her children. Judd's sister (Wendy) is in a sad, lonely marriage. Paul (a brother) can not seem to get his reproductive boys to swim. Phillip (the youngest child in every sense of the word) is trying to be an adult to no success. None of the Foxmans is who they might want to be.

The angst, frustrations, sadness, and fun (there are genuinely hilarious moments in the book) just sort of takes over from there.

I don't know if this book would "work" for women the way it worked for me but it would certainly work. I also don't think readers have to be going through a divorce, feel like a black sheep within their own family, and have Jewish intentions for it to "work" for them (I think people in my age bracket and relative life context could appreciate it). I would suggest this book for anyone that ever does that "this will be fine" deep breathing thing before they walk in to family functions and/or any one that has ever wondered what they are going to do about "life" (not any one specific aspect . . . all of it).

Sidebar . . . they are making this book in to a movie so read it now before it gets ruined by Jason Bateman's one-dimensional, barely-funny shtick in late-2014.

I can't just mention one book this year (I have done a LOT of reading in 2013) so if the above doesn't strike your fancy I read some great Judiaca/Jewish Learning (I'm going through conversion and I'm a happy sponge - leave me alone - but I really do think anyone would enjoy these reads) Invisible Lines of Connection, The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and my current read Yiddish Folktales (apparently nearly all Jewish yarns involve stupid or lazy children) is great, The Liars Gospel (NOT the indictment of Christianity you might presume, I promise). Jewish reference not your thing? I didn't read as much randomness this year as I normally do but some general reading I would endorse includes; The Fourth Bear, How to Be Alone, re-reads of short story collections Cathedral, and Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, and, finally, a terrific biography, FDR: The New York Years.

I have a pile of books waiting for me to spend some quality time with them in 2014 but I ALWAYS appreciate reading recommendations. Got any for me?