Imagine that Wes Anderson and Jerry Seinfeld had a novel-writing baby with Judd Apatow (fertility science has made a lot of progress) and you're halfway to Jonathan Tropper's 2000 debut novel, Plan B.
Now imagine that they went on to have a whole family of genetically engineered wunderkinds, and you'd be pretty close to Tropper's fifth novel, 2009's This Is Where I Leave You.
The plot follows Judd Foxman, a man in his mid-thirties with a lot on his plate. Let's go ahead and run down the list: his wife cheated on him with his boss (ouch), he lost his job (oof), and his dad just died (gah). On top of that, he has to spend a week at his childhood home with his family to sit shiva, which essentially the Jewish version of a wake or funeral visitation, only a lot longer. Trust us, if you knew the Foxmans, you'd be cringing.
The result is an often-hilarious look at family, love, and the trials of adulthood. We see how modern men, like Judd and his brother Phillip, get trapped in extended adolescence. We see how inter-family tension can grow like a cancer if repressed or ignored. We even see the insecurity and self-doubt left in the wake of a broken marriage.
Sound heavy? Think again. Tropper would much rather make you laugh than sob into your non-alcoholic drink. It's definitely the funniest novel we've read since Wes Seinfeld Apatow Jr.'s underrated masterpiece, A Book about Nothing. Now that's a novel.
Do you get along with your family? C'mon, be honest.
Jonathan Tropper knows this well. Just look at the unspoken competition between Judd and Paul, the two oldest Foxman brothers. Or how Phillip, the baby of the family, constantly screws up but is only loved more for it. Or at Hillary Foxman and her truly mom-like ability to embarrass her children no matter the situation. (Sorrynotsorry, mom.)
Okay, fine. So maybe you can't relate to this. Maybe you happen to be the one person who has a perfect family, who never fights with siblings, who never feels distant from parents. Say hello to Santa and the Easter Bunny for us on the way out, would you?
For the rest of us, the novel is a painfully hilarious look at the truths of modern family life. (Sort of like Modern Family, come to think of it.) It's rare to come across a book that so accurately breaks down the way that our families act—it's even rarer to find one that'll make you laugh so hard so hard that you cry.
Read it, and then buy everyone in your family a copy for Christmakwanzaa. You can thank us later.
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
Want to learn absolutely everything about sitting shiva? There's a site for that.
Director Shawn Levy heads up an all-star comedy cast in a 2014 adaptation of This Is Where I Leave You, starring funny folks like Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and Adam Driver.
Put Pen to Paper
In this How I Write feature, Tropper discusses his loose and improvisational writing process.
You Have Questions, He Has Answers
Head over to Tropper's official website and take a look at this brief interview. It gives great insight into his influences and inspirations.
On Pushing the Envelope
This interview provides a unique perspective on Tropper's work, focusing on the way that he approaches Jewish themes.
Never Give UP
Want to learn more about Tropper's life experiences? Check out this brief chat where he talks about his journey to become a published author.
Tami Taylor Talks Tropper
Want to know what it's like to hang with comedic geniuses like Tina Fey and Jason Bateman? Take a look at this interview with Connie Britton, who plays Tracy in the film adaptation.
In this video, Tropper discusses the themes of the novel and his decision to set the action over just one week.
Around the Table
If you have time to spare, then you'll love this hour-long discussion where Tropper discusses his ideas on writing in general, as well as the specific inspiration behind This Is Where I Leave You.
In this laidback conversation, Tropper makes casting predictions for the film adaptation of This Is Where I Leave You and the science of, ahem, getting kicked where the sun don't shine.
In this edition of The Writer's Block podcast, we hear Tropper read the opening passage of This Is Where I Leave You.
If you're still hungry for another heaping serving of Tropper, then check out this long interview about the nuts-and-bolts of This Is Where I Leave You's structure and themes.
The Spy Who Loved Shmoop
Take a look at this super-secret spy shot from the set. And, please, just keep this between us.
Jonathan Tropper Himself
And now, for one night only—Jonathan Tropper unmasked! Come one and come all! See the man behind the words; the sultan of sentences; the prince of prepositions!