Study Guide

This Is Where I Leave You Family

By Jonathan Tropper

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.