I am a usually a fan of Jonathan Tropper. I’ve read three of his books – The Book of Joe (reviewed here), How to Talk to a Widower (reviewed here), and This Is Where I Leave You (reviewed here). I was excited to read his latest book, One Last Thing Before I Go, especially after reading some positive reviews. I just finished it, and I have to say, I was pretty disappointed.
One Last Thing Before I Go is about Drew Silver, a 42 year-old formerly successful drummer living in New Jersey. Silver is divorced from his ex-wife Denise, has been a lousy father to their daughter Casey, and is living in a depressing bachelor pad in an apartment building full of other middle aged divorced guys. All of a sudden, Silver blacks out, and finds later when he wakes up in the hospital that he needs an operation to repair his aorta, or he will face a certain death in the near future. This news is delivered by his ex-wife’s fiance, a successful doctor who has basically replaced Silver in his ex-wife and daughter’s lives.
All of the ingredients for a Jonathan Tropper novel are here: a wry, underachieving, and emotionally stunted male protagonist; a long-suffering but hot and conflicted ex; Jewish parents; friends who converse in sarcastic and cool (but secretly affectionate) quips; a fistfight; screenplay-esque writing; and barbed but dead-on commentary about suburban life. This time, though, I felt like Tropper was mailing it in. The plot was repetitive (Silver disappoints his daughter; he redeems himself; he disappoints his daughter; he redeems himself). Despite all of his flaws, both physical and emotional, Silver gets three women to hook up with him in the course of the book. He is a fundamentally selfish person, caring little about the feelings of others, and I found that I didn’t care whether he decided ultimately to have the life-saving surgery he needed or not. Finally, the book needed more editing. I found the same sentences popping up chapter after chapter, making me want to scream, “I GET IT!”
This is a shame, because Tropper at his best can be utterly un-putdownable.
There are passages in One Last Thing Before I Go that are sheer brilliance, and prove that Tropper observes and understands modern life perfectly. For those passages alone this book may be worth reading. But the parts in between are pretty tedious. A lot of people have enjoyed One Last Thing Before I Go (see New Dork Review of Books (who agrees that this isn’t Tropper’s best) and S. Krishna’s Books), but it just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I have tapped out on Jonathan Tropper? Whatever it was, I think this wasn’t his best effort.
I listened to the first half of the book on audio and read the second half. The audio is quite good – excellent narration by actor John Shea. Unfortunately, good narration couldn’t redeem a mediocre book.
I wish I were more positive on this one! Thanks to Dutton for the book and to Penguin Audio for the audiobook.