“This Is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper is a melancholy, sometimes humorous look at family angst and dysfunction. Judd Foxmann’s father has died after a lengthy illness and his mother has gathered the family together to sit Shiva. The siblings are all equally bewildered by this last request from their non-religious father. The Foxmann’s have not been together as a family for quite some time and now they will be forced to sit together in the same room for seven straight days.
Judd, the narrator, has recently caught his wife in bed with his boss and is in the midst of divorce. He’s been living a lonely existence in the basement of an elderly Asian couple’s home. Wendy, his sister, has three young children and a husband more concerned with making money than family time. Paul, the older brother, whose one time shot at the big leagues was shot down in tragedy, is still angry with Judd for the incident. His wife, meanwhile, is desperately trying to conceive. The youngest brother, Phillip, the somewhat loveable black sheep of the family is trying to have an adult relationship with an older woman.
The story follows the family interactions over the course of the seven days. The various dynamics between the family members, their significant others and the guests that pay their respects leads to often hilarious scenarios and occasionally enlightenment. Judd’s search for a way to live in this new world he’s found himself in and to create a tenable future makes for a somewhat sad, yet amusing journey.
Tropper has given Judd a very unique narrative style which really works with the flow of the story. I quite liked the novel, although I will say I was expecting it to be funnier. There were moments of hilarity but it was overall sadder than anticipated.