Click here to read reviewer Steven Rosen's take on This Is Where I Leave You.
Think about those dramatic movie scenes where the members of a large family gather around an oversized dinner table, vent their frustrations, reveal their secrets, push back from table to return to their lives, and leave viewers wishing that the meal had more courses. Jonathan Tropper’s newest book, This Is Where I Leave You, is exactly this, though the meal over which the information is exchanged is the seven-day period of mourning (the sitting of shiva) during which the entire extended family gathers to honor the memory of their deceased father/husband.
Each member of the family as a character is more engaging than the next. The mother figure is a childhood psychologist who struggles to convince everyone that she is still a sexual being, and much comic relief comes from the fact that she penned a famous book about childrearing - specifically, the way she counsels her children to handle life challenges and the way she interacts with her children in their time of grief is the basis of the comedic value of labeling her a childrearing expert.
One of the sons, Judd, sets the drama in motion near the start of the novel when he finds his wife in bed with his boss, a radio shock-jock known for his sexual proclivities. The oldest son is Paul, who ran the family business with his father and finds himself trying to cope with his grief along with the emotional toll of the fertility problems he is experiencing with his wife. The youngest brother, Phillip, seems to be in a constant state of flux; whether the family bonding that occurs during the mourning period will transform him into a better man or speed his downward spiral is a theme woven throughout the story. The only female sibling, her three boisterous children, and her husband, who is so consumed with his need to acquire wealth for the family that he ignores all of their other needs, completes this amusing and endearing - albeit dysfunctional - group.
This Is Where I Leave You is a heartwarming novel that allows readers to eavesdrop on a family that clearly has a lot of love for one another but difficulty conveying those emotions. There is heartbreak, humor, and pain, all the ingredients for an amusing and well-balanced read.