Study Guide

This Is Where I Leave You Quotes

  • Family

    As the baby, [Phillip] was alternatively coddled and ignored, which may have been a significant factor in his becoming such a terminally screwed-up adult. (1.38)

    Phillip is black sheep of the family in more ways than one. Unlike, Judd and Paul, he didn't inherit his dad's stoic nature--instead, he's open and emotional, like Hillary. No wonder he doesn't quite fit in with his siblings. (Bet his mom loves him, though.)

    I'm going home to bury my father and face my family, and she should be there with me, but she's not mine anymore. You get married to have an ally against your family, and now I'm heading into the trenches alone. (2.27)

    In one corner, Judd, with a righteous sense of anger and a puerile view of relationships. In the other corner, Jen, with a guilty conscience and … a slightly less puerile view of relationships. As you've probably noticed, Judd has a tendency to view the world like it's one big fight, and nowhere is that truer than where his family is concerned.

    "He was not a perfect man, and not a perfect father, but he was a good man, and he tried his best. And you all haven't exactly been model children lately." (7.28)

    Mort's not a model dad; his kids aren't model kids. With that, they're … just like everyone else. That said, the Foxmans clearly admire their dad for the way he led the family, all daddy-issues aside.

    Other than Phillip, the men in my family never come out and say anything (7.44)

    Stoicism is the most prized Foxman family value. Think about how long it took for Paul and Judd to finally confront each other over the Rottweiler attack. Hint: it's more than a decade.

    Linda diapered me, fed me, mothered me almost as much as my own mother, without ever being recognized for it. I should have sent her Mother's Day cards every year, should have called her every so often to see how she was doing. (8.36)

    Linda may be non-traditionally a lesbian, but she's still the traditional mother that Hillary never was. Throughout the shiva, Linda is one of the only people that Judd can consistently rely on for emotional support.

    We have always been a family of fighters and spectators. Intervening with reason and consideration demonstrates a dangerous cultural ignorance. (18.69)

    What's that, you say? It would make sense to try to stop the fight? Oh, sure. But it's a lot more fun--for the Foxmans, at least--to just sit back and watch the fireworks go. Communication, shmunnication.

    I was scared and still in considerable pain, but I felt safe next to Paul and touched that he was so angry that someone had hurt me. (28.23)

    Aw. Nothing like bonding over someone getting his butt kicked to really bring two bros together. Unfortunately, this brief moment of bonding happens mere hours before Paul is attacked by a Rottweiler, changing the brothers' relationship forever. Still, it shows how Paul is willing to do the right thing in the end, no matter how cranky he might be along the way.

    The silent consensus, evident in Paul's glare, my father's pained expression, and my mother's lack of intervention, was that the wrong brother had been mauled. (28.44)

    The Rottweiler attack didn't only affect Paul—it affected Judd as well. He already felt distant from his family before that day, but the shame his parents laid on him made him feel like even more of an outsider. Would Judd's relationship to his family have been different without with attack?

    As we step down to make our way back to the pews, a quick survey of the sadness in my family's wet eyes tells me that I'm not the only one who feels that way. (30.45)

    This is a rare moment of bonding for the Foxman family. Surprisingly, it comes during the temple service for Mort's passing. Why surprising? Well, they're all atheist—making temple an unlikely site of family bonding. We're guessing the simple fact of being together as one unit, memorializing their father, was enough for them.

    We are all smiling in the picture, three brothers having a grand old time just playing around in the living room, no agendas, no buried resentments or permanent scars. Even under the best of circumstances, there's just something so damn tragic about growing up. (31.149)

    In the end—when he leaves them (title shout out, what!), Judd walks away with a better understanding of his family. Instead of resenting them for the bad times, he's decided to remember them for the good. But that's not going to stop him from heading to Maine. We hear it's wonderful this time of year.

  • Love

    I could report the rest of the conversation, but it's more of the same, two people whose love became toxic, lobbing regret grenades at each other (2.24)

    Love and hate are a lot closer to each other than you might think. All it takes is one flipped switch for the passion that fueled your love to get redirected into hate. It's the emotional equivalent to the First Law of Thermodynamics.

    Love made us partners in narcissism, and we talked ceaselessly about how close we were, how perfect our connection was, like we were the first people in history to ever get it exactly right (3.9)

    Ugh. Don't we all know couples like this? They're so in love with being in love that the whole world is just one giant third wheel to them. This energy can fuel a relationship for a short time, but you have to find more common ground if things are to last. And if your friends are going to keep you in their newsfeed.

    And even if you didn't fall in love in the eighties, in your mind it will feel like the eighties, all innocent and airbrushed (6.1)

    Of course, Judd really did fall in love in the eighties—you wouldn't be raving about Pat Benatar or Depeche Mode so much if you didn't. However, he does make a valid point on the connection between nostalgia and love. (But what about Millennials? Aren't they going to feel like they fell in love in the '90s?)

    I blame Hollywood for skewing their perspective. Life is just a big romantic comedy to them, and if you meet cute, happily-ever-after is a forgone conclusion (6.43)

    Judd has a serious beef with romantic comedies, arguing that they set unreasonable expectations for love in the women in his life. As for us, wethinks the Judd doth protest too much. You know, because movies never give men unreasonable expectations.

    The world is suddenly brimming with young nubile women, and I can't leave the house without falling in love. I intuit whole personalities from a single smile, live out entire relationships with the woman sitting in the next car at a red light. (13.2)

    It doesn't take much to make Judd fall in love, because he's so in love with the concept of love that he can't get his mind on anything else. Of course, it probably doesn't take much to make him fall out of love, either. We get the feeling that the guy doesn't go on a lot of second dates.

    Jen and I had still loved each other, maybe not with the same hormonal ferocity that we did back when we'd first started dating, but no one really stays that way, do they? (21.3)

    We've got some bad news for you, kids: no couple stays in the honeymoon stage forever. Every relationship hits the point that Judd describes here, but the ones that last (like Mort and Hillary) manage to exchange their passion for partnership. (With maybe a little bit on the side, but who's judging?)

    "I'm not using her. Not any more than she's using me. Isn't that what love is? Two people who fulfill needs in each other?" (23.9)

    Oh Phillip. What a mature view of love … not. Still, there's definitely some truth to it. Most of Jen and Judd's issues stem from their unwillingness to be there for each other when they needed it.

    I flash back to Horry and Wendy, looking at each other in this exact spot a few hours ago, this haunted pool that seems to pull dead and buried love to its surface. (27.31)

    While most of the focus in This Is Where I Leave You stays on Judd and his lady-friends, Horry and Wendy are trapped in a hopeless romance on par with Romeo and Juliet. Okay, or at least Grey's Anatomy.

    That's love in real life: messy and corrupt and completely unreliable […] I want someone who will love me and touch me and understand me and let me take care of them, but beyond that, I don't know. (32.4)

    In the end, Judd realizes that love is not something he can control or predict. In other words, he's powerless over it—putting him on the road to recovery, 12-step style. Remember, Judd: the first step to love recovery is admitting you have a problem.

    I loved being in love—the deep kisses, the urgent sex, the passionate declarations, the late-night phone calls, the private language and inside jokes, the way her fingers rest possessively on your forearm during dinner with her friends. (40.3)

    After you stop gagging, let us remind you: this is the same guy who complains nonstop about girls who love romantic comedies. Judging by this passage, we're willing to bet that Judd owns at least one copy of How Harry Met Sally.

  • Religion

    The one tattered remnant of Jewish observance that my parents had maintained was having the family stay over for Rosh Hashanah (7.35)

    For the Foxman family, Judaism acts more as a cultural touchstone than a religion. Of course, in true Foxman fashion, tension between family members takes focus over the holiday itself. Well, tbh, isn't that true of all families?

    When your vision of God is America's horniest senior citizen in his pajamas, it's probably fair to say that you're not the kind of guy who sees miracles in the mundane coincidence fate lobs at your unsuspecting head like water balloons from a high terrace. (20.66)

    Judd sure does think about God a lot for a self-proclaimed atheist. Maybe that's the difference between believers and non-believers—believers see miracles, while non-believers just see fate lobbing water balloons at you.

    Within ten minutes [...] Dad would close his eyes and rock lightly in his seat, humming along with the cantor to the liturgical melodies he recalled from his own loosely affiliated youth. (30.16)

    Although Mort was not a religious man, it's clear that he held affection for the Jewish faith. This passage indicates that nostalgia for his youth has a lot to do with it. Is this any different from humming along to the one-hit wonders of the '90s? Maybe not, when it comes down to it.

    "Do you believe in God?"

    "Not really," he said. "No."

    "Then why do we come here?"

    He sucked thoughtfully on his Tums tablet and put his arms around me, draping me under his musty woolen prayer shawl, and then shrugged. "I've been wrong before," he said. (30.18)

    Mort brilliantly sums up an age-old theory called "Pascal's Wager." It's pretty simple: it makes sense to practice religion because you have a lot more to gain if God does exist than if He doesn't. It might not be enough to turn Mort into a hardcore believer, but it's certainly enough to keep tradition alive.

    Boner [...] descends like a spirit from his high seat on the front platform to dramatically hug each one of us as we enter the pew. This seems gratuitous to me [...] like when talk show hosts warmly greet their guests even though they've obviously talked backstage before the show. (30.23)

    Boner clearly loves the pomp and circumstance that comes along with being a rabbi. Hey, who wouldn't love being a congregation's conduit to God, or at least tradition? Judd, on the other hand, finds the ego involved to be more than a little annoying.

    Boner has become the kind of rabbi whose agenda seems to be comprised solely of proving to the younger generations that Judaism is cool, that rabbis can be hip, that he, Charles Grodner, is a happening guy. (30.23)

    It seems like being a rabbi is Boner's outlet for his teenage Led Zeppelin fantasies. It makes sense when you think about—religious leaders were probably the closest things to rock stars at one point in history. (And in some places, they still are.)

    "I'd like to take a moment to welcome the Foxman family back to our temple. As many of you know, Mort Foxman, one of our founding members, passed away a few days ago." (30.31)

    It'd be easy to miss this bit of information when reading the book, but you might want to get out your highlighters: this avowed atheist was a founding member of a temple. Huh. Wonder what that's about?

    For reasons I can't begin to articulate, it feels like something is actually happening. It's got nothing to do with God or souls, just the palpable sense of goodwill and support emanating in waves from the pews around us. (30.45)

    We have a tendency to focus exclusively of the supernatural aspects of religion when it's discussed, but this passage proves that we're completely missing the point. Religion is as much about creating a community here on earth as it is about heaven or hell.

    "Oh come on!" Mom says. "You knew how your father felt about religion. Or, rather, didn't feel. I'm just surprised you all went along with it for so long." (47.67)

    If we were in an arguing mood, we'd say that the kids knew on some level that their dad hadn't requested that they sit shiva. Maybe they just realized the ritual would actually help them make peace with their dad's death.

    "It would be so nice to believe in God," Phillip murmurs to no one in particular. (50.9)

    Yeah, so … why doesn't Phillip just believe in God already? Not so easy, you say? Maybe not—but, as their mom knows, acting like you do is a good start. After all, the Foxman family didn't need to believe in God to get a lot of comfort out of sitting shiva.

  • Sex

    I want to tell him how he and the love of his life will slowly fall into a routine, how the sex, while still perfectly fine, will become commonplace enough that it won't be unheard of to postpone it in favor of a television show, or a late-night snack (3.10)

    Here we see the contrast between the passion of a young relationship and the predictability of a long-term one. It's easy see how the monotony of Jen and Judd's sex life relates to the other issues in their relationship. As the sex goes, so goes the relationship.

    "Why is it so hard for you to accept that your mother is sexual being? Do you think you were immaculately conceived?" (10.16)

    Okay, so Hillary's habit of talking about her sex life is probably super embarrassing for Judd, but it's probably been more beneficial to her kids than not. Imagine how messed up Judd would've been if he came from a home filled with sexual shame.

    For one thing, you've become a bit too efficient, you've learned what works and what doesn't, and so foreplay, entry, and orgasm can often be condensed into a five-to-seven-minute span. Good sex requires many different things, but in most cases, efficiency isn't one of them. (19.26)

    Again, we see how Jen and Judd's sex life is tied to their personal relationship. Neither of them is willing to be present for the other while they are making love—just like they aren't willing to be present for each other after Jen's miscarriage. They might as well be taking care of business alone, if you know what we mean.

    "She cheated on you, and I know that hurts. But it's only sex, Judd, scratching an itch. We've been programmed to attach far too much significance to it, to the point where we lose sight of everything else. It's just one tree in a thick forest." (22.9)

    Ouch. This is not what you want to hear after your wife cheats on you, but that doesn't make it wrong, exactly. Don't you think the world would run a lot more smoothly if people didn't feel the need to freak out about sex?

    But when your wife spent the last year of your marriage going elsewhere for her sexual gratification, it's only natural to have some performance anxiety. (31.100)

    Jen's affair with Wade has left Judd struggling with his masculinity. Things are made worse by the fact that Wade embodies all of the masculine ideals that Judd fails to reach.

    The sex is good and bad as first times tend to be, like a play rehearsal full of missed marks, botched lines, bad lighting, and no calls for an encore. (31.104)

    Real sex isn't like the stuff portrayed in the movies. Like any relationship, it's much better with an emotional connection between two people. No matter how much Penny and Judd want to be with each other, they still don't know each other well enough for good sex. (But at least they don't know each other well enough for bad, right?)

    "In my limited experience, women rarely leave because the sex is bad. The sex becomes bad because something else has gone wrong." (31.112)

    Five dollars to Penny for being the most insightful character in the book. She's able to intuit in one conversation what Judd hasn't been able to figure out in the weeks since his separation: that he can't actually blame the sex for the failure of his relationship, no matter how much he'd like to. He really needs to blame himself.

    You can see your parents have sex, you can see your wife in bed with your boss, and, still, none of it packs quite the same surreal punch as seeing your mother kiss another woman. (45.24)

    Why does Hillary's lesbianism shock Judd more than any of the other (many) bizarre sexual encounters he's witnessed? Probably because his mother's sudden change in sexuality throws Judd's whole conception of sex upside-down in a way that an affair doesn't.

    "I'm seventy-two years old. I drink my coffee alone every morning, and fall asleep with the TV on every night." He smiles. "There are headaches, and there are headaches." (45.31)

    Here, when Judd tells Peter that he's better off without marrying Hillary, Mr. Applebaum gives Judd a glimpse into his own life: an old man still chasing after pretty women. We'd be terrified, but Judd seems to find it comforting. No matter how old he gets, he'll still want to make it with the ladies.

    "It started as something purely surreal and physical." Mom speaks in her TV voice [...] "But Linda and I have been so close for so long. It was only natural that a physical relationship would evolve into something more. (47.48)

    Hillary and Linda's relationship is the embodiment of Hillary's freewheeling views on sexuality. However, it's the two women's longstanding friendship that transforms a purely sexual relationship into a truly romantic one. Maybe this is Judd's problem: he focuses on the love and expects the friendship to come later, when really he should be focusing on the friendship.

  • Mortality

    I have to smile, even as I chafe, as always, at our family's patented inability to express emotion during watershed events. (1.4)

    The novel's just started and we already know what Judd's challenge will be. In order to properly mourn his father, he'll need to learn how to share his emotions with his family. Good luck, bro.

    So his actual death itself was less an event than a final sad detail (1.21)

    Mort's death wasn't sudden and shocking; it had been a long time coming. Sometimes, those deaths are harder on a family, which has to mourn while the dying member is still alive.

    Childhood feels so permanent, like it's the entire world, and then one day it's over and you're shoveling wet dirt onto your father's coffin, stunned at the impermanence of everything. (4.34)

    Poor Judd: thirty-five years old, and he's finally being forced to grow up. His father's death is the last nail in the coffin—pardon the pun. Now his dad's dead, and he's got to be the man of the house. But first, he has to get a house.

    Consumed with Dad's slow death, Mom forgot to cancel the pool service, and so the swimming pool in the garden glistens with blue water, but the grass is starting to come up through the paving stones around it (5.2)

    Talk about a fitting metaphor for the way the Foxman family deals with grief: things look OK on the surface, but it doesn't take much snooping to see trouble popping out from below.

    "Stop interrupting me. Your father lay dying in his bed for the last half year or so. How many times did you visit him, any of you?" (7.30)

    So, why didn't Judd visit his dad when he was sick? They didn't have the best relationship, but Mort seems like a good dad overall. If we were in a betting mood, we'd say that Judd didn't want to see his beloved father as a shell of his former self.

    The visitors are mostly senior citizens [...] coming [...] to pay their respects and contemplate their own impending mortality, their heart conditions and cancers still percolating below the surface (8.9)

    Mort's peers have a much different experience at his shiva than his children. While Judd and his siblings have to deal with death as a concept, Mort's friends have to face it as an impending reality. Once all your friends start to die, it's hard to forget that you might be next.

    I remember Applebaum's wife, Adele, a tall, vivacious woman with big teeth and a resounding laugh. She would grab my hair when I was a kid and say, "Oh, Hill, the girls are just going to go wild over this one!" [...] She started having strokes a few years ago. (12.21)

    One of the saddest parts of death—or dying, really—is seeing the difference between what someone was and what they've become. Thinking about Adele, Judd even manages to muster up a little sympathy for Mr. Applebaum, who was just annoying to him before.

    For some reason sitting here with my little brother, it suddenly occurs to me that we will never see our father again, and I feel a crushing desolation deep in my belly. (23.68)

    Judd has been stuck in the "denial" stage of grief for a while now. It's not until he's faced with his own impending fatherhood that he finally understands the loss he's suffered and seems to move on to acceptance. (Not sure what happened to the other three steps; he must have rushed through them.)

    "Why didn't I miss him more when he was alive? He was dying for two years, and I only visited him a handful of times. What could have been more important than spending time with your father?" (38.88)

    We 100% guarantee that no one in the history of the world has ever said, "Yep, I sure did spend enough time with that person before they died. I have no regrets at all." We're always going to wish we'd done or said more—the hard part is acting on it now.

    "Hillary was the love of his life, and he died knowing she wouldn't be alone. He told me that many times toward the end." (47.59)

    Aw. Mort really is a good guy, isn't he? His acceptance of Hillary and Linda's relationship reveals that he was able to make peace with his own death, leaving a really touching example of fearlessness and love to inspire his family. You got us right in the feels with this one, Tropper.

  • Dissatisfaction

    I'm [...] supposed to be just starting my own family, but there's been a setback [...] and you wouldn't think you could get any more depressed while sitting shiva for your father, but you'd be wrong. Suddenly, I can't stop seeing the footprints of time on everyone in the room. (8.10)

    What's got Judd even more depressed than his father's death? Comparing himself to the old married couples at the shiva. He's looking back at his own "footprints of time" and wondering where he's going to be leaving footprints in the future. From his perspective, it's a lot easier to walk into the future if you've got a partner at your side.

    And now I have no wife, no child, no job, no home, or anything else that would point to a life being lived with any success. (8.12)

    Judd comes from a pretty successful, mainstream family, which gives him specific expectations about the path that his life will take. Imagine that shock when he wakes up to find that he doesn't have anything resembling the life his parents had—something that a lot of us are going to feeling, unfortunately.

    To have nothing when you're twenty is cool, it's expected, but to have nothing when you're halfway to seventy, softening and widening on a daily basis, is something altogether different. (8.12)

    Notice how Judd compares himself to a twenty-year-old? Yeah, that's not something you want to be doing in your thirties. Your thirties are a time for looking down on people in their twenties, not living their lifestyle. Get it together, man!

    Linda's smile is sad, ragged, and somehow beautiful, the aching smile of the long-suffering. "You learn not to think about what might have been, and to appreciate what you have." (8.33)

    Judd is not the only one who feels dissatisfaction about his life. Imagine that! It's almost like he's not the only one whose life didn't turn out the way he expected. (But don't try telling him that. He's still wallowing in his own ego.)

    I shake my head. "It's just hard to see people from your past when your present is so cataclysmically fucked. Horry nods sagely. "Welcome to my world." (8.92-93)

    Horry knows a thing or two about dissatisfaction. One minute, he was a good-looking kid with a pretty girlfriend and his whole life ahead of him. The next, he was homebound and living with epilepsy, not even able to move out of his parents' house. So maybe Judd should stop feeling so sorry for himself, hm?

    The point is, I have this fake leg clamped to my thigh [...] And when I remember that I'm an amputee, I experience this moment of abject horror when I realize that when I get home I will have to take off the leg to go to sleep and I can't remember ever having done that before. (10.1)

    Judd's dream about an amputated leg is a way for him to process being separated from Jen. He can't remember how he lost it and, with one leg, he feels like there's nowhere for him to go. Gee, it's nice when your subconscious uses such straightforward symbols.

    Under their scrutiny, my rage dissolved almost instantly, replaced with the hot shame of public emasculation. My wife had slept with another man, so what did that make me? (14.31)

    Judd's dissatisfaction has a little to do with his own feelings and a lot to do with his desire to avoid public shaming. It's bad enough to experience a broken marriage—it's so much worse when that broken marriage is out on display.

    "I don't have one. No great traumatic event to blame my small life on [...] I tried to make something of myself and I failed. That happens every day too." (16.31)

    Once again, Penny proves that she's more than just a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She's a person with hopes and dreams and disappointments of her own, who's telling Judd that he needs to grow up and take ownership of his life.

    At this moment, I feel numb, and if you were to peel away the numbness you'd find a thick mucous membrane of trepidation, and if you were to slice through the membrane, you would find a throbbing cluster of outrage and regret. (20.31)

    This is a lot of words to express something simple: Judd's scared that he'll be alone forever. This fear is at the core of everything he does, and—surprise!—it's basically at the core of everything everyone does.

    I am not ready to be a father. I have nothing to offer: no wisdom, no expertise, no home, no job, no wife. If wanted to adopt a child, I wouldn't even qualify. (31.77)

    Here, we see how Judd's dissatisfaction is tied to his manhood. He has a kid on the way but he doesn't believe that he has the tools he needs to be a good father. (Well, he has the tool to be a father, if you know what we mean …)

  • Marriage

    The self-help books and websites haven't come up with a proper title for spouses living in the purgatory that exists before the courts have officially ratified your personal tragedy (2.3)

    Self-help books might not have a name for it, but we think "It's Complicated" does a pretty good job of expressing Jen and Judd's not-quite-married, but not-quite-divorced relationship. Although Judd feels betrayed by Jen, he still isn't ready to completely give up on their marriage.

    We knew marriage could be difficult in the same way that we knew there were starving children in Africa. It was a tragic fact but worlds away from our reality. (3.2)

    Everyone knows that marriage is difficult—for other people. Somehow we think that we'll be exempt. Spoiler alert: we're not.

    Every so often we'd get into a fight over something larger, and we'd scream and vent all of our gripes, tears would fall, hurts would be validated, and the sex would get good again for a while, passionate and intense, and then the cycle would repeat. (19.28)

    Talk about the very definition of "vicious cycle." Judd's fight-and-forgive pattern might have been comforting to him at one point, but eventually the cycle became a marriage-killer.

    I spent a good deal more time picturing myself as a father than as a husband. I figured I'd be a husband first, and certainly, I imagined what sort of woman I might marry [...] but I didn't picture myself as any particular type of husband. Just me, married, basically. (21.1)

    Oh, Judd. Rookie mistake, seriously. Even we know that marriage requires compromise, and we're planning to die as confirmed bachelors. Here, Judd's immaturity leads him to believe he can have a successful marriage without changing anything about himself.

    But still, I can't help wondering if that baby might have saved us, the same way that losing it accelerated our downward spiral into the thorny underbrush of marital decay (21.2)

    As Tolstoy (almost) said: all happy marriages are alike; all unhappy marriages were ruined by children in some way or another. Look at Paul and Alice, for example. The pressure to conceive weighed so heavily on Alice that she put her relationship with Paul at risk.

    "Over the course of a fifty-year marriage, one bad year isn't very significant. Your marriage might still be there to be saved. But you'll never know if you keep indulging your hate and anger like the world owes you reparations." (22.11)

    For all her eccentricities, Hillary really does have a good perspective on life. Everything she's saying here is true, and it implies that she and Mort had plenty of bad years to go around too. Really, Hillary's marriage is probably the one we should be imitating.

    Never marry a beautiful woman. Worship them if you must, go to bed with them if you can [...] but when it comes to marriage, it's a losing proposition. (27.60)

    So Judd might be a little biased here, but there's definitely some truth to what he says, only maybe not quite the way he means: beauty or not, don't marry someone thinking that they're just going to be a beautiful doll. Judd placed Jen up on a pedestal but forgot to treat her like a living, breathing, mourning human being.

    "I needed you to see me as your wife and all you could see was the failed mother. And now I need you to see me as the mother of your child, and all you can see is the failed wife." (31.64)

    Man, Judd just can't win. Here's a hint: maybe he should try seeing Jen as a woman, pure and simple, without projecting all his insecurities and expectations on her. How's that for an idea?

    I am not real to him. This is his wedding day, and nothing is real to him. And I am in mourning, and in shock, and he is not real to me. We are ghosts, passing each other in a haunted house, and it's hard to say who pities whom more. (31.83)

    When Judd runs into a wedding party after another fight with Jen, he shares a moment with the groom. It means nothing to the groom and everything to Judd, who sees the guy as a reflection of Judd on his own wedding day—naïve, overconfident, and in for a rude surprise.

    "You got married right out of college. You're terrified of being alone. Anything you do now will be motivated by that fear. You have to stop worrying about finding love again. Get comfortable being alone. It will empower you." (43.41)

    Judd has never had to face the world on his own, and that's an important part of growing up. Hopefully, his road trip to Maine will leave him recharged to either rekindle his marriage with Jen or start a new life altogether—or at least with some good Instagrams.

  • Men and Masculinity

    Having spent years laboring under the restrictions of the power company, he took a certain pride in outwitting them in his own home. (11.2)

    Mort was an old-fashioned working man. That's a pretty stark contrast to Judd, who probably wouldn't know which side of the hammer he's supposed to hold. (The wooden one. We think.)

    "He called me worthless. So dad stepped between us and I didn't see what he did, but next thing I know, the coach is on the ground, and Dad is stepping on his chest. And he says, 'Call my son worthless again.'" (11.30)

    The Foxman boys love to settle their arguments with a strong right hook, and now we find out where they learned it from. How do you think this manly man ended up with a talk-it-out celebrity therapist like Hillary?

    Like most guys with genetically superior shoulders, Wade was an asshole, an alpha male who asserted his presence physically, through viselike handshakes and powerful backslaps, the kind of guy who needed to win at everything (14.5)

    While Mort represents the positive male ideal, for Judd, Wade represents the negative one. (Although we get the feeling Judd wouldn't mind having those shoulders.) Wade's overbearing masculinity only makes the pain of Jen's affair sting harder.

    But at this moment, all I can think about is the fact the Wade Boulanger is all cock and no sperm. (20.12)

    This is the one chink in Wade's super-manly armor. It might seem like this would be a silly thing for Judd to be happy about, but we wouldn't want to insult Judd's fragile sense of masculinity by calling anything about him silly.

    "You've got six months or so to get your shit together, to be ready to be a father and start caring for someone other than yourself." (25.27)

    When push comes to shove, that's all manhood is really about: accepting your responsibility to the people around you. It's a lot less sexy than making love to women and dominating other men, so naturally, it'll take some time for the message to completely sink into Judd's head.

    I bleed into the fuzz of his peacoat as he rubs my back and says, "It's okay, bubbie. You're okay. Everything's fine." And then he stands me up on a bench and pulls out a handkerchief to softly wipe away from my blood. (29.6)

    This is a rare moment of tenderness from Mort. Although Judd hasn't thought about the memory in many years, it helps him remember that his father was capable of great compassion too. So maybe men don't actually have to go around beating people up all the time? Imagine that.

    When I try on the black one Mom has chosen it fits perfectly, except for slacks being an inch or so too short. I am somewhat surprised, because I've always seen him as taller than me. I never got close enough to know better. (30.12)

    Judd still sees his father the way he did when he was a kid, and it's hard for him to realize that his father went through all of same experiences that Judd is struggling with now. But guess what, Judd? Men have struggled with these issues for, well, as long as we've been modern humans. (But don't ask us how long that is. Wars have been fought over that question.)

    "I've been trying to get pregnant for almost two years [...] I take a drug to make me ovulate, and my eggs have tested fine, but Paul won't get his sperm tested." (31.20)

    Alice is desperate to have a child, but Paul is unwilling to even get his sperm tested. We're not psychologists, but that sounds like some serious insecurity to us.

    The socket wrench clicks noisily as it spins, and I can see the long muscles in his forearms flex and move as he turns it. He has spent his life working with tools, and they fit naturally in his hands. (32.1)

    Like many of us, Judd associates his father with tools. The tools represent many things: strength, wisdom, and the ability to fix problems for the people around him. And they're pretty handy for hanging shelves and tightening faucets, too.

    That's the thing about jocks. They're wired to compete, regardless of angry wives or busted shoulders. They will not back down. (32.34)

    To Judd, a jock is just one spray-tan and a few expensive suits away from being Wade Boulanger. And since Judd's anger is rooted in a fundamental insecurity about his own manhood, he doesn't have the fuzziest feelings toward them.

  • Betrayal

    "I am a flawed person. I was unhappy and did something inexcusable. But as much as you might hate me for ruining your life, playing the victim isn't really working out for you" (2.13)

    Although Judd is justified in his anger, Jen has a real point here. Judd won't be able to move on with his life unless he learns to live with her betrayal, so he'd better get himself into some therapy and learn to deal.

    It would be so much easier if she wasn't Jen. But she is, and where there was once the purest kind of love, there is now a snake pit of fury and resentment and a new dark and twisted love that hurts more than the rest of it put together (2.28)

    Ooh, ooh, we've got a good analogy for this. Love is powerful—like, say, dynamite. Betrayal, on the other hand, is like a lit match. On their own, they're fine. Together, they make one nasty mess.

    In the days that followed, I would review the last year or so of our marriage like the security tapes after a robbery, wondering how the hell I could have been so damn oblivious, how it took actually walking in on them to finally get the picture (3.12)

    Sure, Judd could figure things out if he investigated them like the lead detective in a serial killer flick, but something tells us that this wouldn't be the best thing for his sanity. Those detectives always have a little something off about them, anyway.

    It had been only a minute or so since I'd walked through the bedroom door, and my brain has not yet adjusted to this suddenly transformed world where I no longer comforted Jen because I hated her (3.41)

    After he catches Jen having sex with Wade, Judd still feels a borderline-biological drive to care for Jen. The betrayal is so profound that his instincts take over, even though his conscious mind knows that she's actually in the act of betraying him.

    She always cared a little too much about being liked, and the guilt over her betrayal isn't nearly as upsetting to her as the fact that I now despise her. (9.35)

    Really, Judd? Are you sure about this? With Judd's poor track record of assessing Jen's emotions, we're not sure he's reading her correctly here. He's still so focused on his own feelings of betrayal that he can't see his part in it.

    I was being offered a consolation prize. Numbers had been crunched, risk assessed, and they had estimated the value of my broken marriage at another thirty thousand dollars a year before taxes. (14.25)

    There's nothing like a bit of professional betrayal to go along with all of the emotional carnage. The dehumanization of this sort of corporate proceedings is just the cherry on top of the humiliation sundae.

    She's not here to get me back or even to pay her respects. She has Wade's baby in her belly and out money in her mind. And now the rage is back, along with a healthy measure of self-loathing for being the pathetic cuckold who wants his cheating wife back. (18.79)

    Judd isn't just angry that Jen betrayed him—he's also angry that she betrayed him and he finds himself still wanting her back. In a way, you could say that he's betraying himself by wanting her.

    When, exactly, did she cross that line and stop being mine? The only thing more painful than not knowing would be knowing. Having to go back to every picture in every album and stamp it real or lie. I don't have the stomach for it. (31.89)

    Jen's betrayal forces Judd to reexamine their relationship. How much of their marriage was a lie? When did he lose her? Problem is, sometimes those questions just open up the wounds. You can't move forward if you're always questioning the past. (That's a good life lesson, Shmoopers. Write it down.)

    Friendship in the suburbs is wife-driven [...] Now that I'd been sidelined, Wade had stepped in for me like an understudy. (31.95)

    Now that he's out of the situation, Judd can see that many of his "friends" weren't real friends at all. Between you and us, though, this revelation might be a good thing.

    "So you can go on hating me for it; I certainly would if I were you. But she came after me, Judd. Not the other way around. She came after me. You know that's true, and that's the thing you can't get past." (38.70)

    Judd blames Wade for Jen's affair from the start. It's comforting to believe that Jen was manipulated and that Wade is a jerk. Deep down, however, he knows that's not the whole truth.