Book Review: This Is Where I Leave You


ashley | This was yet another attempt to read a book before the movie. As clearly labelled on the cover, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper is now a major motion picture starring Tina Fey and Jason Bateman, so I assumed it was going to be filled with quirky and flawed characters and a truck load of family issues. I naturally gravitate towards dysfunctional families, so this immediately spoke to me.

Tropper is the kind of author I can quickly fall in love with; bitter, sarcastic, dark humoured and sometimes just incredibly depressing. I’m disappointed in myself that this is the first I’ve heard of him and of this book and even more disappointed that it took a movie to get me to read it.

I don’t know what it is about dysfunctional families that I love so much. I don’t come from a dysfunctional family and sometimes I find it hard to believe that family really can have so many problems, but I enjoy reading about how everyone interacts with each other and deals with each of those problems. How they all still try to band together despite being pushed apart.

Tropper’s touch on this dynamic is as enjoyable and witty and entertaining as anything else. There are some very interesting observations and phrasing associated with them and the way the narrator deals with his family and his own crumbling life. The family is a mess; each character has their own problems and insecurities that come out in full force when they’re crammed into a room to sit shiva after their father’s death. The analyzing of these insecurities is what makes the book interesting. That and the fact that there is no shame in among all the shame; this is just how everyone is, and if you can’t deal with it, leave. There’s something to be said about that kind of loyalty in a family who constantly betrays and questions each other’s loyalty. The whole thing is one big contradiction, that’s what I like.

I think, though, that my own personal hype and excitement about this took away from the overall feel a little. It was a good book, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but it played out pretty much exactly how I was expecting and the laughs were there, but also expected and I just feel like there wasn’t anything new here.

I’m sure it’s due to the fact that I’ve been binge watching Parenthood lately, but I couldn’t help but draw together these two different pieces of work. The families are almost interchangeable and I couldn’t shake putting the Parenthood faces on to the characters of This Is Where I Leave You, which ended up being confusing when I tried to slot the characters into the upcoming movie, and even more confusing when I realized Dax Sheppard is in both the show and the movie. And what’s interesting when you draw the comparison between the two, the dysfunction of This Is Where I Leave You becomes less dysfunctional and more just an example of a complicated life.

That said, Tropper still expertly displays the jaded and bitter outlook on life from the dark and shadowy corners of dysfunction, with observations and thoughts that stretch beyond pleasantries to remind you that things could always be worse. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine and for that, I’m happy to have read this.


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