Judd Foxman is not having a great year. Whilst surprising his wife on her birthday (with a cake from her favorite bakery), he catches her in bed (their bed) with another man. His boss, to be more precise. This quickly leads to him losing his job, his house, and doesn’t leave him much in the self-esteem department. And then Judds’ father dies, bringing him, his mother, his sister, and two brothers together for the first time in years. All of this is quickly followed by the news of his wifes’ pregnancy (Judds baby), and cohabitation with her new boyfriend. So, we must forgive Judd if he does not have the most respectful and reverent reaction to his quasi-religious fathers’ last wish: that his family sit Shiva together in their family home.
For one week, Judd the trod-upon, Wendy the perfectionist sister (complete with crumbling marriage), resentful older brother Paul, and lovable screw-up Phillip, along with their mother (who literally wrote the book on having inappropriate conversations with ones children), and their partners, will co-exist inside the same house. They will be together for the longest time since they were children, with only their grief, buried issues and dysfunction to keep them (and us) entertained. Chaos inevitably ensues.
Jonathan Troppers’ “This is Where I Leave You” was very entertaining, an easy and fast read. I am a sucker for a family drama, (as an extrovert, group dynamics always fascinate me). But even outside of that, this book was really funny…a little twisted, but very smart and clever. Troppers’ characters are wonderfully flawed; Judd is not your likable unlucky protagonist. He’s critical, irreverent and self-absorbed, and this makes him real. The family is almost absurdly dysfunctional and you feel sorry for the outsiders who have the misfortune of having married into this mess (or you would feel sorry for them, if they weren’t as messed up as the Foxmans)! However, all throughout the book, the authors’ primary idea remains beautifully clear. When life gets hard, whether you know it or not, you need your people.
I completely understand the need to gather up the people you love in one place. I am extraordinarily blessed with a number of families. Nothing makes me happier than when I have 14 friends in my house, deep frying a turkey. Or when a dozen or so gather at my Dads’ place for a mohito competition and Bocce ball. Or when J and Sophie and I sit outside on a summer evening and play cards.
Because home isn’t a place you go, home is your people.