This Is Where I Leave You is an always smart, sometimes sad, very funny novel about a dysfunctional Jewish family dealing with trust and communication issues as they come together for seven days and are forced to deal with some of their baggage. Wow, nothing there I can relate to at all, let's give that a read, shall we?
This is where I leave you starts when Judd Foxman finds his wife banging his boss, thereby losing both his house and his job, and then learning that his father has died. And then things start to go wonky.
Although the family does't really follow their faith, after the father's funeral (where the gravedigger happens to be a fat bearded guy in a red suit), the family learns his last wish was for them all to follow the tradition of sitting "Shiva" for seven days. Unfamiliar with the concept? Think a Jewish wake, with less booze and more food, with mourners squeezed into kiddie chairs designed to fit Ewoks, and everyone they have ever met coming by to visit. The reason for filling the shiva house with visitors is, according to Judd, to prevent the mourners from tearing each other from limb to limb.
The family kicks the week off with a lunch where one of the grand kids sends poop flying, and Judd says "it is utterly inconceivable that we will survive seven days together here... but as metaphors go, you can't do much better than shit on the good china."
Judd is a wry and glum narrator, dealing with the loss of his father, his wife, and his job. He is forced to spend a week confined with quirky siblings and their Joan Collins-esque mother. On the agenda? Love, marriage, divorce, food, booze, mourning, adultery, infertility, parenthood, old age, old girlfriends, baseball, late-in-life lesbianism, sibling rivalry, old grudges, fist fights, ice skating, a rabbi named Boner, and the bonds of family whether we want them or not.
I like Judd because he is smart and trying to figure stuff out as it all spins out of control. And he is starting over at ground zero: "I am depressed, unemployed, unloved, basement-dwelling, and bereaved."
And I like the book because it is wise and funny with great characters like youngest brother Philip who "is the Paul McCartney of our family: better-looking than the rest of us, always facing a different direction in pictures, and occasionally rumored to be dead."
George Burns famously said that happiness is having a large and loving family in another city. We all know that every family has their quirks (aka their wacky crazy stressful shit). As Judd Foxman works his way through his worst time, he gains some insight and grows up after the destruction of his marriage, which ends "the way these things do, with paramedics and cheesecake."