Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A New (NOT local) Author for Me - And a Darn Good One.

My friend, Bob, and I have been exchanging books for many years.  And in all that time, there have only been 2 authors that we don't agree on - one each.  In fact, the year that we read The Honk and Holler, by Billy Letts, we both, independently, called it the surprise book of the year.  Where am I going with this?  Here it is.  So, when he suggested an author and book to me, which he hasn't done in quite a while, I ordered it (from Village House of Books, natch) and put it near the top of my TBR pile.  Well, I got to it.  And let me tell you, it was really good.  You say you want a title/author?  It's This Is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper.  I found out, while I was reading it, that it's going to be a movie that hits the theaters in September.  Jason Bateman will be the main star, but there are many opportunities for actors to have great roles because there are just so many interesting characters.

Here's the basic premise.  A Jewish family, with a 63-year old mother and 4 siblings, 3 boys and a girl (from early 20's to late 30's), lose the father.  His last request (or was it?) was for the family to gather together at the family home and sit shiva for 7 days.  For those of you who don't know what sitting shiva is, it means mourning the death of a loved one in a formal, tradition-bound way.  You are supposed to take the time to remember him.  You receive friends, family, and neighbors who come to pay their respects.  AND, you eat likes kings and queens because EVERYBODY brings food.  (The main character says:  "You could fill an airlift to Africa with all the food generated by one dead Jew." - a bit extreme, perhaps, but accurate)

Of course, you can only imagine the interactions when 5 adults (the youngest son being quite a bit less adult than his siblings) come together in close quarters for 7 days.  Their relationships are exposed, of course, and each brings a significant other that has great significance to the story and the sibling interactions.

But besides all of the inter- and intra-relationships, I loved the writing.  You know I only do this once in a while, but here are a few examples of what I consider to be very clever writing:

"Dad didn't believe in God, but he was a life-long member of the Church of Shit or Get Off the Can."

He's talking about an old girlfriend - "Penny's honesty has always been like nudity in an action movie:  gratuitous, but no less welcome for it."

"The sex is as good and bad as first times tend to be, like a play rehearsal full of missed marks, botched lines, bad lighting, and no calls for an encore."

This book even has some long paragraphs that I liked.  Normally, I'm not a big fan of those because they often seem like the author's attempt to show how well he/she writes. Not so in this case.  They are well-written but not stuffy or high-falutin'.

This is just a darn good book, and I'm looking forward to the movie.  HOWEVER, I strongly recommend that you read the book first.  There's no way the movie is going to be as good as the book.  3.5/4.

There is a scene that describes the family going to religious services.  The boys would play soccer using the prayer book (siddur) and a crumpled candy wrapper.  My own son (much to my eternal shame - nah, actually I was fine with it) used to play siddur baseball. He concocted some game using the pages of the prayer book.  I can't even describe how he did it.


  1. I'm really excited about the movie - I bet it's terrific!

    1. I agree that it does sound good. And based on reading the book, I think that Jason Bateman, who I like anyway, is a very good choice for the lead.

  2. I've had this book on my lit for ages, and now I'll jump in and buy it!

    1. Good call. I'm sure you will enjoy it.