September 2012

Finding humor in life’s mess

By Jonathan Tropper
Review by
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Jonathan Tropper’s 2009 bestseller, This Is Where I Leave You, garnered wide critical acclaim. With his penchant for finding levity in the most dismal of places, Tropper was frequently compared to Tom Perrotta and Nick Hornby. The parallels are apt, but as Tropper proves in his latest, One Last Thing Before I Go, his darkly comic and unpredictably insightful style is entirely his own.

Silver is a man without much to live for. He lives in the Versailles, an apartment complex that functions as something of a halfway house for, as Tropper puts it, “sad, damaged men” who are making their way, some slower than others, out of painful divorces. The former drummer of a band defined by their one-hit wonder, Silver has been on the decline since the group unraveled. He pines after the life he led with his ex-wife, Denise, who is weeks away from marrying a successful and mild-mannered doctor, and his Princeton-bound daughter, Casey. Amid the chaos of the impending nuptials and one adolescent pregnancy, Silver and his broken family are once again rocked when he receives a life-threatening diagnosis, one that can be treated by a routine operation. A routine operation Silver refuses to have.

As he effectively rules in favor of his own death sentence, Silver reluctantly begins a startling education in himself, and the roles he has played—with varying degrees of success—as a father, husband, brother and son.

Tropper’s prose is a perfect blend of irreverence and beauty. Like Hornby, he has a real command of the male voice, but the women certainly don’t get second billing here. This is a book populated by robust and knowable characters whose relationships perfectly capture the disarray of family life. They simultaneously heal and damage one another, and all the while, Tropper leads you through their commotion with humor and aplomb.

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One Last Thing Before I Go

One Last Thing Before I Go

By Jonathan Tropper
ISBN 9780525952367

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