Two years ago, I was introduced to Jonathan Tropper’s book “This Is Where I Leave You” by my Waffle House waitress, a cute blond named Samantha. People would think that Waffle House waitresses don’t read…much less know anything about Jews. Most people try to avoid Waffle House, but I love breakfast food so frequent Waffle House. In fact I plan to do a photo shoot of “the Girls of Waffle House” before Hefner does it for Playboy!
“You’re always so busy, what are working on?”
“I’m writing some stories about my crazy family.”
“That’s so cool. I’m reading this great book about this northern Jewish family sitting Shiva after their father dies. Nobody gets along and all the family members are so crazy too,” she replied.
“In fact, that sounds exactly like what I’ve been writing; only my story is about a crazy Southern family instead.”
I thought, what does a country girl know about Jews and sitting Shiva? Does she think I’m Jewish? Is that why she told me about the book?
“Why did you read that book?” I asked.
“While in Barnes and Nobel, I read the back of the book and it sounded real interesting.”
“Did you know that I was Jewish?”
“Nooo way, you’re not! They’re no southern Jews,” as she walked away shaking her head.
The next day I bought the book and gave it a read. What I liked best about the book is the abundance of dialog and humor. The interaction of a multi-generational family was exactly what I was writing about my own Southern Jewish family.
Jonathan Tropper’s book is a fast moving yuppie suburban comedy drama. The protagonist of this story is Judd Foxman, a 35 year old male who works in NYC for “shock jock” DJ similar to Howard Stern, whose name is Wade Boulanger. He is married to Jen, his beautiful college sweetheart and is living perfect life. Everything is going great until he catches his wife having affair with his boss. Now Judd has no job and no wife. To make things worse Judd’s father has recently died from cancer. His father’s dying wish was that the family sit shiva together for 7 days. He can’t understand why his father would want this because he was almost an atheist and the family not religious.
The trouble begins when the family has to spend seven days together in the same house. The book is written in diary form, breaking down each day by the hour. In addition, much of the story is told as flashbacks from the earlier events in the lives of the family members. Every old friend and lover from their past comes back into their lives while they are home. The older brother Paul is a washed up athlete who married Judd’s old high school girlfriend, and now runs his father’s sporting goods store. They are unhappy because she can’t conceive a child. Judd’s older sister Windy has three children and is married to Barry, an investment banker who is obsessed with making the “big deal” and has little interest in his family. Phillip, the youngest sibling is a good looking ladies’ man who has never held a real job. The mother is a psychologist who wrote a famous Dr. Spock type book about child rearing and is overly sexy and very outspoken. Throw all these people together for a week and the skeletons come out of the closet.
I highly recommend the book. My only complaint is that Tropper threw in too much. I thought several times the book could have ended, but he wanted to torture us with just one more weird twist. Some sex scenes and physical violence were a little over the top, but if you are looking for good dialog and zany antics from a bizarre family, then this book is for you.
This is Where I Leave You: the Movie Review
The movie includes an all-star cast of Jason Bateman as Judd, Tina Fey, as his sister Windy, Cory Stoll (House of Cards) plays the older serious brother Paul, Adam Driver (Girls) as Phillip, the younger playboy brother, and Jane Fonda as his overly sexy and outspoken mother. The actors were perfectly cast and their acting is superb. I have new respect for Adam Driver and Tina Fey. The movie was both funny and moving. What makes the movie funny is that these people cannot control their bad behavior even at the most solemn of Jewish occasions. In many ways I liked the movie better than the book, because many of the over the top scenes in the book were greatly toned down in the movie. This made for a much more believable story.
Why did the movie get so many bad reviews? I think most people expected a straight comedy in the genre of Father of the Bride or The Hangover. This movie is a drama with loads of humor. So if you like a drama that can make you laugh or cry, then this movie is for you. I give the movie 4 of 5 stars.