I read a lot of fluffiness in the weeks before and after New Years, and I’m not apologizing for it. Steelheart, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and this book were all fun reads that I thoroughly enjoyed. Now I’m geared up to settle down and read more serious things. Or maybe I won’t.
I read a few of Tropper’s books in 2012, and I got a little burned out. He started sounding the same. This book was better and made me remember all the reasons I like Tropper so much, from the quality of his writing (sharp, witty dialogue) to the dark humor and ultimately very real characters. This book felt like Tropper, a little more grown up.
What stood out about this book is how often I wanted to underline and share some of the lines. Like this one:
They come by every other Sunday, Elaine and Ruben, because he is their son and they love him, and because they think he’s lonely. These visits kill him, because he loves them too, and because he knows his sad little life hurts them, maybe even more profoundly than it sometimes hurts him, which means these visits probably kill them too. So every other weekend they spend an hour or two together that leaves them all depressed and depleted, but they never miss it, and if that’s not the best definition of family, then he doesn’t know what is.
Tropper is a guy who writes about guys but I suspect is really writing for women. He writes about assholes who basically are really nice guys. He’s a little like the book version of Judd Apatow.
In One Last Thing, Silver is a middle aged formerly successful drummer, meaning his band had one big hit, the lead singer went solo, and the rest of them were left with nothing but royalty checks and playing weddings and bar mitzvahs. His wife divorced him years ago, and he’s been an admittedly lousy father to his 18-year-old daughter.
Until two things happen. He finds out his daughter is pregnant, and he has a heart condition that requires an operation. Only he doesn’t want the operation. He decides to become a better man, and being a better man means living on borrowed time. It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to.
I loved the characters in this book, especially Silver’s friends, a sad group of lonely men who all live at the Versailles, a local motel for rejected husbands.
And so the men of Versailles, brothers in disgrace, reach out to one another in the invisible ways that men do, and small, fragile friendships of convenience form like desert moss.
Tropper’s previous books border on the ridiculous at times, but this book feels like Tropper making fun of himself. His family keeps saying “no drama” and Silver tries. At the same time, he’s a ridiculous human being. He wants to be a better person but seems to have no idea how to make that happen. His daughter reminds him at some point that most people actually make decisions about how their life should go, and then act on those decisions.
As someone who prefers sometimes to let fate tell me what to do, I kind of sympathized with Silver’s need to float along through life, even though he hates himself for doing it. He has to be goaded and pressured into doing even the smallest things. But I still really liked him.
I also really liked the Jewish-ness of the book. It makes me realize how rarely I read about or see Jewish characters. Religion isn’t a big part of the book, more of a day to day life kind of thing. It’s not like I go to Jewish weddings or Friday night services – but it’s still nice to read about them and know that some small part of you identifies with it.
If you’re looking for something clever, funny and dramatic, without being heavy (even though it’s about death), I recommend this book.