Back in 2009, I read Jonathan Tropper’s fifth novel This Is Where I Leave You. I enjoyed that enough to go out and read his four previous novels. But as I read the last one sometime in 2010, I realized that Tropper could be categorized under “Lad Lit,” a sort derivative take on the popular female authors who get called “Chick Lit” writers. Both, in a way, are insulting, yet both styles cover somewhat the same ground, with dysfunctional families and main characters that have sitcom wit when it comes to zingers.
This is not bad, because not every book you read (or I read) has to have some literary weight behind them. After all, I love Stephen King and most, if not all his novels, are considered pop-fiction. And only on occasion, do I veer off into the literary fiction of say Michael Chabon (and while I own a copy of highly acclaimed 2001 novel The Corrections, I’ve still yet to crack it open).
I do believe that This Is Where I Leave You to be his best comedic book, so I was hoping that what he started in that novel would continue into One Last Thing Before I Go. While I liked it, I found myself irritated by it as well. The main character, Drew Silver (who apparently only goes by the name of Silver –even his family calls him that. Who does this?) is so unappealing, so depressed and so irritating, I cannot understand why anyone –even his own father, a rabbi, wants to spend time with him.
The plot has Silver being a divorcee, a former one-hit-wonder rock star, a bad father, a bad husband, a bad friend, yet somehow makes everyone love him all the more. As if his life wasn’t complicated and messed up enough, he develops a tear in his aorta that is life-threatening unless surgically repaired. But Silver, being the life-long screw up that he is, isn’t sure that he wants to have the surgery that will save his life. His daughter, who is eighteen and off to Yale at the end of summer, gets pregnant by the neighbors’ son. He is in love with a girl with whom he has never spoken and who plays acoustic sets at the local bookstore café. The highlight of his day is when he ogles college-aged girls lounging around the pool near his apartment, The Versailles, a place where divorced men go to become fat and depressed.
Part of my problem with the book, beyond the whole sitcom-ish aspect where people have unbelievable banter, is I saw myself in Silver. Being unemployed for a year sort of makes you look at life in a very depressive way, and Silver (as in silver lining the tear offers) now has a choice, either to continue on with his troubled life that seems not to be getting better, or let nature take its course. Maybe if one is depressive, they should avoid this book?
Tropper was working on a new drama for Cinemax called Banshee, and maybe trying to write a book and launch a series divided his time too much. Somewhere during the writing process of this book and getting a series commitment, the book fell between his earliest work, because while it does have some moments, it nowhere near where he landed with This Is Where I Leave You.