This is a smartly written story about a dysfunctional family. It reminds me a bit of the short stories by David Sedaris- as Jonathan Tropper has the ability to find humor in every situation. This family is sitting Shiva for their dead father, while each is dealing with unresolved issues with each other and in their life. It was a humorous look at some sad situations. Although I really loved the writing style, I started getting bored with the plot about half way through the book. For that reason, I am going to give this book 3 stars.
Here’s a breakdown…
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What is this book about?
Four siblings and their mother are sitting shiva for their dead father. I’m not that familiar with sitting shiva, but it seems to involve sitting on chairs low to the ground for a week. Their friends/family and community come out and pay their respects during this time.
The story is narrated by Judd, who just found out his wife was sleeping with his boss. He’s devastated and lost since that has happened, and now he has to deal with the death of his father.
The oldest brother- Paul, was a star baseball player, until an incident with a Rottweiler removed his ability to play. Paul is responsible for the family run business and still harbors anger towards his brother Judd about the accident. Oh, and Paul’s wife Alice, dated Judd in high school and lost her virginity to him. And during the course of the book, Alice actually has sex with Judd in hopes of getting pregnant.
Wendy (the only sister) is married to Barry- who is always on the phone doing business and is struggling to take care of her three kids (while Paul and his wife can’t get pregnant). She is an auxiliary character to the boys.
Phillip, the youngest brother, and stereotypically the least responsible, brings home an older lady (his sugar momma) and announces that he is going to marry her. But, during the course of the story, he cheats on her (yes, during the mourning period for his father) and by the end of the book they decided to split up.
The mother, has been having a lesbian relationship with the lady across the street (and it seems her husband was OK with this). This relationship also comes out at the end of the book.
What did I think about this book?
I believe he purposely built caricatures of people and slapped their hands when they tried to do something they weren’t ‘supposed’ to do. (i.e. a normal guy marrying a beautiful woman, or a older woman falling for a younger man.)
I did like the way the story unfolded. We would get hints of backstory before getting the full scoop- for example, we knew Paul had some type of incident with a dog, but it’s not until later we find out the details of how it occurred and the part Judd played in the incident.
“When I try on the black on Mom has chosen it fits perfectly…I am somewhat surprised, because I’ve always seen him as taller than me. I never got close enough to know better.”
“These are the facts: The Tracys of this world will always fall for the Phillips, who can always be counted on the f*ck the Chelseas. And round and round we’ll go, doing our pathetic little dance, denying our own true natures in the name of love, or something we can pass off in it’s place.”
I would read another Jonathan Tropper book, as I loved the writing. But I do prefer this style of writing in the form of short stories, as I don’t feel the plot supports a novel of this length.