Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This Is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Tropper

2009, 352 pages
When Judd Foxman’s father died, he had a peculiar last wish: he wanted his family to sit Shiva after his death, the Jewish traditional seven days of mourning together at the same house for the deceased’s close family. The wish is peculiar because Mort, the father, was known as a non-religious man. But Judd, like the rest of the family, agrees to gather in his childhood home and spend the week with his mother, sister and two brothers. The family members are not very fond of each other and they get on each other’s nerves after minutes of spending time together, so no wonder Judd dreads a full seven days with them under the same roof. And this does not sum up the problems in his life right now. His wife left him for his boss, and that left him unemployed and homeless too. The book follows the seven days of the Shiva, the relationship and surprising discoveries in the family, and the crisis in Judd’s personal life.
It is supposed to be a light, funny but touching book. I am sorry to say it did neither of these for me. I almost never laughed or felt touched. The book is full of sex of violence. People are either sleeping with each other (or fantasizing about it) or punching each other. Maybe it is supposed to be a man’s book, on the light side, something like the male version of a chic-lit. Anyway, it didn’t work for me. I was mainly bored or disgusted.
One part that did touch me and was described in a beautiful way was the saying of the Kadish, the prayer for the deceased, in a synagogue. It all seemed so respectful and true, with men and women sitting together, the wife and the daughter saying the Kadish with the men. It may be obvious for American-Jews, but it is so different than what I saw in the very few times I had to take part in a Jewish traditional ceremony. I always dismissed it when people told me I should try to go to synagogues on Jewish holidays and I will find a completely different experience than what I previously saw. I still think that there is nothing for an atheist to look for in a synagogue, but I think I get what they meant.
With the exception of this one scene, like I said, the rest of the book didn’t really do anything to me, and I don’t think I will go on to try other books of this author.