2 words that describe the book―Hilarious Dysfunction
3 setting where the book took place or characters I met
- Setting: Somewhere on the East Coast (the exact location escapes me and I’m too lazy to look it up right now), modern day
- Judd Foxman is our narrator. He’s not having the best year. He caught his wife Jen in bed with his boss (a radio shock jock), which led to the loss of his job and his home. Now his father has died, and he’s been summoned home to sit shiva for seven days―despite the fact that his father was an atheist and no one in his family practices Judaism anymore. The book takes place over the course of the seven days―allowing us to meet the various members of Judd’s hilariously dysfunctional family.
- The Foxman family is filled with rage, pain, dysfunction, resentment and secrets―so bringing everyone together makes for a rollicking good time (for the reader). We have the inappropriate dressing, TMI-spouting shrink mother; sarcastic older sister Wendy, whose husband is barely there even when he is there; the oldest brother Paul and his wife―both of whom have some past issues with Judd to work out; and the youngest brother Philip―the irresponsible Golden Boy who has taken up with a much older woman.
4 things I liked or disliked about the book
- This book was laugh-out-loud funny―I’m talking snorting a drink out of your nose type of laughter. Tropper just reels off hilarious lines page after page. I kept thinking “Why have I never read this author before? Why was this type of hilariousness kept from me?” From descriptions of his siblings (“[he was the] Paul McCartney of our family: better-looking than the rest of us, always facing a different direction in pictures, and occasionally rumored to be dead”) to describing Judd’s marriage as ending “the way these things do: with paramedics and cheesecake,” you’ll never be far from a funny line. Even advice for paying shiva calls will crack you up:
There are tricks to paying a shiva call. You don’t want to come during off-peak hours, or you risk being the only one there, face-to-face with five surly mourners who, but for your presence, would be off their low chairs, stretching their legs and their compressed spines, taking a bathroom break, or having a snack. Evenings are your safest bet, after seven, when everyone’s eaten and the room is full. Weekday afternoons are a dead zone. Sunday is a crapshoot. Do a drive-by and count the parked cars before you stop. If you’re lucky, there will already be a conversation going on when you come in, so you won’t have to sit there trying to start one of your own. It’s hard to talk to the bereft. You never know what’s off-limits.
- Yet at the same time, the story is filled with very real and complex emotions. Tropper does a brilliant job of walking the tightrope between hilarity and angst―without tipping too far one way or the other. I think this is very difficult to do, yet Tropper seems to pull it off effortlessly. Judd is devastated by his divorce―desperate, needy and confused. You feel his pain throughout the story―especially when his ex-wife hits him with some very disconcerting news. And as the Foxmans work through their long buried issues as a family, I think most readers will be able to relate to the confusing emotions that can arise. The Foxmans felt utterly real and alive to me―albeit way funnier than most families.
You never know when it will be the last time you’ll see your father, or kiss your wife, or play with your little brother, but there’s always a last time. If you could remember every last time, you’d never stop grieving.
Sometimes it’s heartbreaking to see your siblings as the people they’ve become. Maybe that’s why we all stay away from each other as a matter of course.
- I loved how Tropper focused on all the members of the Foxman family to one degree or another. Everyone has their own issues, and it all comes out during the shiva. It felt realistic and messy―just like real life. In addition, the Foxman’s family friends and neighbors make appearances and are brought to life as much as the family members. I loved how Tropper created these quick sketches that fleshed out each character’s personalities and foibles in just a few lines. I could instantly imagine such minor players as the clueless older neighbor who is trying to make a move on the new widow or the young girls who flock around Philip and cause his girlfriend anxiety.
- I enjoyed this book so much I immediately went to Paperback Swap and ordered most of Tropper’s earlier books. Based on this book alone, he’s earned a place on my “favorite authors” list. Let’s hope his other books are filled with as much wit and pathos as this one!
5 stars or less for my rating
I’m giving the book 4.5 stars. I just loved this book to pieces! Tropper combined humor with true emotion―an unbeatable combination in my mind. If you’re in the mood for laugh-out-loud contemporary fiction also taps into the all too real and messy emotions of life, this book would be the perfect choice. A word of caution though: The book can be a bit raunchy at times, and the language might make some blush. If stuff like that bothers you, this book might not be the best choice for you.