This is Where I Leave You is a novel by Jonathan Tropper mainly about how life is always a bit more complicated than we imagine it will be. This book is mainly a comedy but it certainly does have its share of tragedy and drama as well. The novel is set-up to be a classic dramedy with many funny moments mixed in with some sad and pensive moments. This is how life goes, right?
The book follows the main character, Judd, as he deals with his marriage falling apart due to infidelity, the death of his father and having to live with his family for a week to observe the Jewish practice of Shiva. While my life is not as dramatic and funny as the lives of the family members in this book, I found myself relating to the characters on some level, which made the book rather relatable to me as well.
I decided to read this novel in anticipation for the movie that would be coming out. In a year where many of the books that I had chosen were serious, depressing, and apocalyptic at times, reading this book was like a breath of fresh air. Looking back, it was funny that I saw it that way because this book does have some very serious and depressing moments. The jokes in the book got extremely crass at times but it worked because I know how people can really be. Unlike some stories where one character has a lot of bad but funny stuff happen to him almost to the point where it is painful to watch, this novel spreads bad luck all around and even gives justice to the loser in the situation. There is a scene that for obvious reasons doesn’t make it into the movie in which a cake with lit birthday candles gets shoved up a cheater’s bottom. There are also many touching and sweet scenes between family members who really just needed some one-on-one time in order to reconnect.
From reading about Jonathan Tropper, I have learned that in his books he draws from his real life experiences at times. Apparently, he grew up in a small town like this family, experienced marital strife similar to Judd and had a scrappy relationship with his family as well. What I appreciate about the novel is that Tropper seems to be saying that even in a dysfunctional family that love can be found and people can be cherished. While I certainly do not agree with the morals of the characters of this novel (infidelity is a common theme), I like that this family is able to be so imperfect and yet still make it work.
The movie version of this book should have been really awesome. The book was hilarious at times and the actors picked out for the movie seemed like they would make a great ensemble. While the movie definitely had its moments, it did seem to fall flat a bit. I would still argue that it wasn’t because of the actors chosen: Jason Bateman plays Judd, Tina Fey plays the sister, Jane Fonda plays the mom and Rose Byrne plays the childhood friend. I would say that the problem with the movie is that the funny moments weren’t as plentiful and intense as they were in the novel because they needed to be censored and toned down for audiences. Also, the classic crime of putting all of the major funny moments from the movie into the trailer was committed. It wasn’t a bad movie but it definitely didn’t live up to my expectations.
I did like the book but I am unsure to whom I would recommend it to as the humor is very dry and might require a particular taste. With so many other good books out there right now, it would not be at the top of my list of books to recommend to friends.
The narrator, known also for the Diary of Wimpy Kid books, did a seemingly effortless job portraying all of the different characters in the novel. All in all, I would say that it was a good book that had a movie that didn’t live up to its potential.