All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This Is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper

This Is Where I Leave You is a witty, bittersweet novel about a family that gathers to mourn its patriarch. The story is told from the perspective of Judd, the middle son, who in the throes of an ugly divorce, so there are elements of the story that are decidedly adults-only, both in language and content.

Judd's father's dying wish is to have the family sit Shiva, which is a Jewish custom that requires the immediate family to gather and accept mourners for a period of seven days. Considering that the family is not particularly close and experiencing life as adults, those seven days are quite eventful. Wendy, Judd's only sister, seems to be in a loveless (or at least unromantic) marriage; Paul, Judd's older brother, is trying to keep afloat the family business that he inherited from his dad; and Phillip, the youngest son, is a ne'er-do-well who arrives late for the funeral with his life coach at his side. Add Judd's fresh marital troubles and a grieving yet spirited widow, and the reader is treated to a seven-day healing period that is funny, sad, and well, healing.

Tropper provides regular comic relief, like a description of "Today's Inappropriately Self-Absorbed Shiva Caller" and a guide to paying a shiva call in this passage on page 234:

"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."

But ultimately, the shiva was a chance for the family to heal. In this short conversation between Judd and his younger brother Phillip, they discuss their relationship with their father:

"'Do you think Dad was a good father?'

Phillip ponders this for a moment. 'I think he did his best. He was pretty old-school, I guess. He didn't always get us, didn't always appreciate us, but come on, look at us, right?'"

This Is Where I Leave You has likable characters and is a quick read. It's a good story, too, with themes of reunion, hope, and forgiveness. Published by Dutton in 2009, This Is Where I Leave You is a bestseller, and the author is working on a screenplay. You can visit the author's website at

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