This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Bibliographic Citation:
Tropper, Jonathan. (2009) This is Where I Leave You. New York, NY: Plume. ISBN 978-0452296367.

(Image from Amazon.com)

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary
This is Where I Leave You follows The Foxman family during a particularly rough time for all of them. The main character, Judd Foxman, has just discovered that his wife has been having a year long affair with his boss, Wade. Shortly after Judd witnesses his wife’s betrayal firsthand, his father, Mort Foxman, passes away. To honor his father’s last wishes Judd, his mother, and his three siblings, Paul, Wendy and Phillip, are forced to sit shiva in their childhood home. Their dysfunction is painful and hilarious.

Critical Analysis:
This is Where I Leave You might be the best book I’ve ever read. (Have I been throwing that phrase around too much lately? I don’t think so. I think I just keep stumbling upon some bomb-a books lately.) No joke. Judd Foxman — which I mistakenly read as Jude the whole novel — is so normal and lifelike (maybe not the right word?) you forget that he’s a character in a novel and not your buddy just going through a hard time.

The book spans just a week but you cover so much ground that it feels longer, in a good way. You get up close and personal with each Foxman. You live and breathe Foxman. You grieve with them. You’re embarrassed with and sometimes for them. You love with them and laugh with them. When Phillip punches Wade at the hospital your fist hurts too because you had been wanting to deck that jerk the whole time. This family is so real and personable. It moves you. I wasn’t ready for This is Where I Leave You to leave me.

When the book ends there isn’t any closure for Judd. I’m often a person who hates when stories let you fill in the blanks and draw your own conclusions based off of dots that may or may not have actually connected. This isn’t one of those times. This was just open enough. It leaves you with a sense of hope. Do Judd and Jen reconcile? Does Alice get pregnant? How does Phillip and Paul’s work relationship pan out? You don’t know, but that’s okay.

This is Where I Leave You is just good writing. It is a good story about good people going through a bad time. Sometimes the characters surprise you and sometimes they’re predictable. All in all they’re perfect. The Foxmans are like the literary equivalent of The Bluth family but with less money and felony offenses. Thank you Jonathan Tropper for giving the world The Foxman family. Be sure to watch the movie when it comes out in September! Did I mention that Judd is played by Jason Bateman? Yep, Michael Bluth is Judd Foxman.

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A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

(Image from Amazon.com)

(Image from Amazon.com)

Bibliographic Citation:
Hornby, Nick. (2005) A Long Way Down. New York, NY: Viking Press. ISBN 978-1594481932.

Plot Summary
Martin, Maureen, JJ, and Jess are four London residents who, for very different reasons, have all decided to end their lives on New Years Eve. They meet by chance on the roof of Topper’s House, a famous last stop for the suicidal in the area. Martin is a television personality who has come into some legal and martial trouble, Maureen is a single mother to a disabled child, JJ is an American stranded in London without a girlfriend, his band, or a job he finds respectable, and lastly there is Jess a young girl with exboyfriend trouble and a missing sister. These four people who seem to have nothing in common help each other hold it together.

Critical Analysis:
A Long Way Down is told from the point of view of each of the main characters. The novel spends just enough time on each character as to not bore or overwhelm you. I found the layout of the book to be refreshing and engaging. Hornby denotes each person’s thoughts with their name but each character has such a unique and distinctive voice that you would know who was doing the talking without that.

Maureen is without a doubt the most relatable character in the novel because you understand where she’s coming from even if you haven’t experienced it firsthand. Even the other characters say that they can’t blame her for wanting to commit suicide. Jess is an infuriating character because she is selfish and irrational. In the beginning you think she’s foolish for wanting to kill herself but as the story progresses you often want to kill her yourself. JJ is at a low point in his life so the reader may identify with him and can probably remember a time in their life where they felt they couldn’t rebound and recover, much like how JJ feels. But, deep down you know he will because you did and so you pull for him to get back on his feet. And then there is Martin, an aging man who had it all but is out of touch with reality. If I was Martin I would probably want to end it all too but he doesn’t really help his situation. He could reclaim some semblance of his former life but he can’t or won’t or doesn’t want to. I’d probably push him off the roof with Jess. And then JJ can help Maureen take care of her son and be bff and live happily ever after.

I won’t say that A Long Way Down is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, but it was definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. I couldn’t put it down. Page after page after page of the train wreck that is their life sustained me. I finished it in two days and was sad to see it end. I wanted more. The pace was perfect. The detail too. The character development was spot on. Bottom line, this book is fantastic. Hornby took some gloomy situations and turned it into something hilarious and beautiful. Read it before the movie comes out (Sometime in March in the UK but I don’t know about the US).

Sidenote:
You can watch the movie trailer below! Pierce Brosnan is Martin, Toni Collette is Maureen, Imogen Potts is Jess and Aaron Paul plays JJ. I’d be laying if I didn’t say the sole reason I chose to read this book is because I heard Aaron Paul was in the movie adaptation. From the trailer it looks like this movie will not disappoint. Having read the book I think the casting for this is freaking perfect.