Of Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You (Plume) and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (Harper Perennial), two books about family relationships and dysfunction, I’d say my preferred Jonathan is Tropper. Both novels are built on a quest to bring a family together one last time, in hopes of mending fractured relationships.
In The Corrections, the mother, Enid, attempts to gather the three kids for one last Christmas in their childhood home. Franzen tells the story by exploring each person’s life and the complications leading up to the family gathering. It is hard to like Franzen’s characters—all of them, especially Enid, got on my nerves.
This Is Where I Leave You, Tropper’s book about mending family relationships, starts from the death of the father, which brings everyone back home to mourn his passing. The story is told by Judd Foxman, who has sunk to a low point in his life because he is in the midst of getting a divorce and now his father has passed away. Judd is a character who invites sympathy, and his observations of family dynamics as well as the disintegration of his personal life, kept me reading to the end.