The best-selling author of This Is Where I Leave You returns with a hilarious and heart-rending tale about one family's struggle to reconnect.
You don't have to look very hard at Drew Silver to see that mistakes have been made. His fleeting fame as the drummer for a one-hit wonder rock band is nearly a decade behind him. He lives in the Versailles, an apartment building filled almost exclusively with divorced men like him, and makes a living playing in wedding bands. His ex-wife, Denise, is about to marry a guy Silver can't quite bring himself to hate. And his Princeton-bound teenage daughter, Casey, has just confided in him that she's pregnant - because Silver is the one she cares least about letting down.
So when he learns that his heart requires emergency, lifesaving surgery, Silver makes the radical decision to refuse the operation, choosing instead to use what little time he has left to repair his relationship with Casey, become a better man, and live in the moment, even if that moment isn't destined to last very long. As his exasperated family looks on, Silver grapples with the ultimate question of whether or not his own life is worth saving.
With the wedding looming and both Silver and Casey in crisis, this broken family struggles to come together, only to risk damaging each other even more. One Last Thing Before I Go is Jonathan Tropper at his funny, insightful, heartbreaking best.
©2012 Jonathan Tropper (P)2012 Penguin
I'm trying to wean myself and learn to function without earbuds for more than ten minutes at a time. It hasn't been easy. I lose balance...
Five hours in the car and I was truly sad to hear the last of him, even replayed the ending. Death is around us and changes us but not until it feels real enough. The story is a little movie-structured, but feels honest enough. It's not action packed or even startling with big changes - it's just, well - "true" feeling. The read from John Shea feels spot on and really let's you feel for the guy despite his obvious issues. I confess, I didn't think I'd like it. Then I found myself liking it enough to want to keep following him and find out how he made out with the rest of his life. Nice.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
I can answer this question, because I actually read the print version before listening to the audiobook, something I like to do with books I love, especially if I know they will translate well to audio. This one does indeed translate well, in large part because it is a lot of fun -- at least it ends up being fun after getting off to a depressing start.
For me, both versions are cause for celebration. That's because I have become a big Jonathan Tropper fan, since reading his prior novel, This is Where I Leave You. My wife was reading it and laughing up a storm. What's so funny, I asked. I read it for myself, and in short order caught up on his entire back catalog of four previous novels, of which Book of Joe is my favorite (so I listened to it after reading it as well). I then jumped at One Last Thing when it came out about a year later, reading the book and then listened to it.
Sorry for the long preamble, but it leads to this: Most of these novels are pretty much the same. You have to really like what JT is doing -- variations on a theme from book to book -- to appreciate going from one to the next and so on. I do, big time. If you've never read or listened to his books before, there is no reason to worry -- get it and laugh, a lot. If you've only read one, try another and see which way you react to reading something so similar. Then decide whether to continue on from there, because the others are going to all be in a similar vein.
Although it ends up being very much like the others, JT does start out flipping things around -- Tropper trying to do something different. This is his first novel that is not in the first person, and that makes a difference. And this time, it is about the father with the life threatening condition, not about the son dealing with a father who has died or is about to die. Which means it's not about coping with the death of a parent, but about deciding (literally) if life is worth living or if you'd be better off dead. So a definite shift in perspective, in several senses of the word.
But what I liked best about One Last Thing is not that JT tried to change things up (a wee bit), but the path his main character, Silver, takes in deciding whether he wants to save himself (literally, from his medical condition, and also in retaking hold of his life). The first thing you run into there is the suburban hotel where all the divorced men like him now live, their wives having kicked them out of their houses -- wonderful stuff, great characters, and as I read somewhere else, the Greek Chorus of Silver's life.
Then his father enters the picture, convincing Silver to join him in a series of life-cycle events that he presides over as a rabbi -- a wedding, a funeral, a bar mitzvah, etc. -- where he can see how other people deal with life-altering changes and where he has personal reactions.
But best of all, part of Silver's medical condition causes him to speak his inner thoughts out loud, often at the most inappropriate times. The way Tropper writes this is ingenious. You read Silver's internal monologue as in any novel. Then all of a sudden other characters react as if it was spoken out loud. I never got used to the device, never saw it coming, even after I realized what was happening and how he was doing it. And that works really well in audio format too.
There is a scene where two of these devices come together, where Silver's father takes him to a funeral of someone he never knew. In considering the parallels of the event to his own situation, his inner thoughts manifest themselves out loud without him realizing it -- he starts singing Amazing Grace, a Christian hymn at a Jewish funeral. But it works -- for him and for the mourners. That is when he realizes what his father is doing by taking him to these events. It is a minor epiphany, a mid-act climax, en route to his ultimate life-affirming epiphany and the book's final climax.
... And Another Thing, and Another...
I haven't seen any negative reviews of this book from people who never read Tropper before. The only consistent criticism of any weight is that it again adheres to Tropper's literary formula, tried and true as it is. And it seems that is only because this book is maybe half a star below This Is Where I Leave You, the one that most readers loved the most, the one through which most return readers discovered Tropper.
OK, fair enough, even though I personally still haven't had enough and am looking forward to the already-planned film adaptations One Last Thing and This Is Where I Leave You and JT's next book, whenever that may come out.
On the flip side, there is Banshee. When I first heard that Tropper had created a TV series about dysfunction in rural Pennsylvania, I thought it was going to be a family comedy with a literary bent, like his books. It is anything but. It's an action drama with ultraviolence and near-pornographic sex. Lots of dysfunction, yes, but no laughs whatsoever. I like it well enough for what it is, but it has no traces of Tropper the author that I have come to love.
If the exception proves the rule, then let's not hear any more complaints about JT sticking to his formula, because he hasn't exactly knocked it out of the park by deviating from it so dramatically with Banshee.
Say something about yourself!
I devour audio books and have read a ton, from David Sedaris to David Halberstam. Jonathan Tropper is one of my favorite authors, for his contemporary voice and incisive views into human foibles. I loved, loved, loved, this book. It drew me in from the first sentence. I got to the point where I didn't want to listen becaues I knew the ending would come sooner than I wanted.
I love the idea of this middle-aged loser, so sweet and basically kind, but so lost. And how he finds his way. The way we all want to find ours. This book is also funny, even laugh-out-loud funny in places.
I'm not sure if I've heard this narrator before, but he did an outstanding job.There is a very fine line between giving one's characters unique voices--or ruining the listener's experience by giving secondary characters weird voices that stand out and destroy the book. Shea navigated this line with aplomb. I enjoyed his narration tremendously.
I laughed, I cried. I have "liked" it on FB. I want all my friends to read it. I want the world to read it! My husband, who tends to stick to thrillers by Baldacci, Demille, Grisham, Coben and Child) read this book. And LOVED it! It's a book that everyone can enjoy and gain something from.
I stumbled on Jonathan Tropper by accident, but what a happy accident it was. I've read all his books and think this one might be my favorite. I loved the writing so much, I have put all my other Tropper books back on my iPod for a second listen.
Drew Silver passes out and wakes in the hospital to learn he must undergo emergency surgery or die. He decides against the surgery. The story follows Silver, a former rock star, over the course of the following week as he learns his teen-aged daughter is pregnant and we learn that he is still madly in love with his ex-wife who is about to marry his doctor. Silver realizes time has moved too fast, and at the same time not at all. Like the universe had been on pause. So, a lot of serious stuff. Broken heart literally, broken heart figuratively, and an unplanned pregnancy. And it is told in the form of a sitcom. It is hilarious. I have never read a comedy before. The book gives you some things to think about in your own life and offers a laugh. Another reader mentioned that the book gets off to a slow start, and I agree. Didn’t know if I would continue, but after about an hour it really gets going. Stick with it.
This book was definitely enhanced by being in audio version. The narrator sounds a lot like Garrison Keillor, which is a good thing, in my estimation.
I almost ditched the book after listening to the first 40 minutes or so. I couldn't seem to connect to the characters, and it just didn't grab me. Not too much later, I was in love with the book. The plot premise was intriguing: the protagonist, a royal screw-up in life, faces a decision about his own death. As the book progressed, I couldn't wait to hear what would happen next. The dry humor of the author crept up on me, and his mercilessly clear yet mercifully understanding approach to the characters rang true. The author has an eye for multifaceted human beings, deeply flawed and yet somehow familiar and engaging. Once I started enjoying this book, I feel in love with it and couldn't wait to hear the next installment.
Different narrator. The book is hardly in the class with Tropper's others, but still his skill for describing every day events in a way that these things actually happen makes his stories awfully appealing.
Though I've never understood the appeal of listening to 8or more hours of raspy diction, I have dealt with it. Add the wheezy element, though, and i feel as if i might as well be listening to a feeble Burl Ives narrate a B'rer Rabbit tale. I concur with some reviewers that relatively mild tonal variations for various speakers is always a plus, although listening to an 18 year old girl who sounds like Burl Ives is disconcerting.
I am not sure why I did not expect much from this book, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. It was not up to parr with a Richard Russo story but follows similar lines. The main character is a bit of a screw up and does not deny or hide from that. He is estranged from most everyone he has ever loved. Then his daughter confides in him. Shortly after that they both have a decision to make. The story is told well, narrated wonderfully, and keeps you interested. The ending is superb.
I did enjoy the story and characters very much. Jonathan Tropper is gifted at creating characters who, though flawed, are also compelling. I found it easy to root for Drew Silver. The story kept me engaged, the dialog is witty and realistic, and even the lesser characters are well-drawn and interesting.
I found John Shea's narration aggravating and very distracting from the story. It was like listening to Captain Kirk with a pack-a-day smoking habit. The gravely, raspy voice I could handle, although I didn't love it -- it's a bit weird when narrating an 18-year-old girl, but managing every character convincingly is a challenge with any audiobook. The part I couldn't get past was his tendency to deliver. Every. Line. With strange, seemingly...irrational pauses. I suppose it was intended to add drama, but it was just extraordinarily distracting. It interrupted the narrative flow and made for strange interpretation, giving emphasis to odd points in sentences. It was a lot. Like. Captain. Kirk. narrating a book... about a MAN. And... His DAUGHTER. If I could recast the narrator, I would choose Kristoffer Tabori, because he is my all-time favorite and capable of narrating a wide variety of characters with easy diversity.
I think I would recommend reading the book instead, since I found the listening experience strange.
Loved hearing the voices of the different characters. Made it all the more interesting as a story.
My favorite character was Silver. The classic underachiever who has to come to grips with his issues
The party at Jeremy's house. Everyone gets a BIG surprise in different ways.
As you listen to this book you can't help but start to feel that you know this main character like a friend and when the book ends you feel as if you've lost one. I couldn't stop listening and rooting for him the entire time. You'll grieve when it's over.
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