Monday, August 30, 2010

What I know about sitting shiva?

What do I know about sitting shiva? Pretty much nothing.  One of the main plot points of Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You is that the family of recently deceased Foxman patriarch is sitting shiva.  I'm not Jewish and the most I knew about sitting shiva came from the episode of Weeds "Three Coolers" from season 4.  It was one of the episodes with Albert Brooks of The Simpsons and by the way, what ever happened to Weeds?  Season 1 was amazing and even seasons 2 and 3 were entertaining but they lost me after that.  Once Conrad and Heylia were no longer regular characters I quit watching.  I mean, how could you get rid of those 2?  They were my favorite characters.

Anyway, back sitting shiva. Actually no.  Not back to sitting shiva because to try to say that I somewhat understand it after reading this book is a lie and a mean thing to say about a meaningful religious ceremony.  What I will do is go back to the book.  I mentioned in my last post about this book that the anger caught me off guard, though it really shouldn't have because the book is very honest about the anger from the get go.  Throughout the rest of the book the anger doesn't go away and in many cases it's explained without being entirely resolved.  This feels slightly anti-climactic but it would be a lie if the problems were explained away at the end and everyone were to go off into the sunset singing "Age of Aquarius".  (If you don't understand that reference go check out The 40 Year Old Virgin.  By the way, Conrad is in there!  This post is making all sorts of connections.)

Situations are exaggerated for comic value but the story and the relationships still feel honest.  The story drew me in, even though I don't think I was necessarily in the right frame of mind to start this book.  As I mentioned I didn't have a choice because all of the other books were packed so I continued through it and I'm glad I did.

I do wish the character Wendy was better fleshed out.  You mostly see her making smart ass comments (my favorite kind) to her brothers while trying to deal with her own body issues and her asshole husband.  Tropper sets her up as an interesting character with potential and yet you never understand her childhood, her anger or why she became the person she is.  The story is told from the point of view of her brother and perhaps we learn so little about her because her brother never learns much about her.  We see Judd and his brothers Phillip and Paul at least try to work through their old issues but Wendy is never really dealt with.  And yet I still found this quote one of the most heartbreaking of the book:
[Wendy] fell in love often, and with great fanfare, throwing herself into each romance with the focus of an Olympic athlete.  Now she's a mother and a wife, who tries to get her screaming baby to sleep through the night, tries to stop her boys from learning curse words, and calls romantic love useless. (321)
I do have a few questions for those who have read This Is Where I Leave You (and even if you haven't read it feel free to weigh in, but there may be spoilers.)

-What do you think Judd's dream about his missing leg means?  The idea that he needs his father to help him stand seems to make sense but also seems to simple and I think I'm missing something.
-Did you picture Judd as Albert Brooks (see, the connections keep on coming!)? 
-What'd you think about Horry and his relationship with Wendy?  What about Wendy's justification for sleeping with Horry?
-What do you hope happens to Judd?  Do you think he should end up with Jen? With Penny?  With no one?
-Who was your favorite character?  I obviously mentioned how much I like Wendy but I was also a fan of Phillip.  He was an idiot and a bit of a man-child but he was at least honest if clueless.  This doesn't mean I'd want to hang out with him and certainly not date him but he made for a character I liked to read about and didn't want to punch several times per page (see: Paul).

Tropper, Jonathan.  This Is Where I Leave You. Plume Book, New York.  2009.