09 June 2010

Books: How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper (2007)

In Jonathan Tropper’s fourth novel How to Talk to a Widower, we meet Doug Parker. Doug is 29 and it’s been just over a year since his wife Hailey (who, by the way, was 11 years older than him) of two years was killed in a plane crash. He has spent that year drinking copious amounts of Jack Daniels, moping around the house in his grubby underwear, and generally pretending that he doesn’t exist. He is pathetic. He is painfully vulnerable. And he is undeniably annoying to the rest of the world who, although they “understand his need to grieve,” feel that it’s time for him to buck up and get his life back in order --- especially in time for his younger sister Debbie’s wedding. And then there’s his late wife’s troubled 16 year-old son to add to his misery.

The problem is that Doug is not ready to move on with his life, but that does not stop his wholly dysfunctional family from stepping in and putting him on the right road. There’s his pill-popping mom, who is odd as can be, his twin sister Claire, who has issues herself - she’s left her boring husband, is a pregnant, has attitude and is a huge potty mouth - and his father, who suffers from bouts of dementia after a stroke a few years earlier.

But its Claire who finally kickstarts Doug’s program for recovery and from where we see how things go from bad to worse, all with hilarious outcomes.

Tropper is brilliant at creating hugely flawed, yet loveable characters who circle around ideal backdrops to explore the human condition.

The book packs some emotional wallop, yet even as tears bubble into your eyes, he makes you laugh at the same time. As an example, early in the novel, Doug learns of his wife’s death and calls Claire. As any good sister does, she immediately gets in the car to see her brother.

She says, “You’re in shock. Okay, I’m in the car.”
Moments later, there was a loud , protracted crashing sound.
“What was that?”
“I just backed through the garage door.”
“Jesus. You okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “The whole damn door came down. I’ll just drive over it.”
“Drive carefully.”
“Whatever. Listen -“ But she forgot that she was on her cordless and not her cell phone, and as soon as she turned out of her driveway she was out of range and the line went dead.

Before he calls Claire, you are weeping because the man has to comprehend the death of his wife, and mere moments later, you are laughing at image of a sister trying to get to her brother.

I love this guy. Sad now that I’ve read everything he’s produced now, but I’ll get over it. Not like I got 30 of 40 books sitting around I have not read.

No comments: