Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper

One Last Thing Before I Go
Author: Jonathan Tropper
Published: August 21, 2012
Genre: fiction
Hardcover: 324 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Silver has begun to accept that life isn't going to turn out as he expected. The exwife he's remained friends with is about to marry a terrific guy Silver can't quite bring himself to hate. And his Princeton-bound teenage daughter has just confided in him that she's pregnant—because he's the one she cares least about letting down. As the wedding looms and the pregnancy sinks in, this broken family struggles, bonds, and wrestles with each member's individual anxieties. Lives begin anew, change radically, or, in Silver's case—as he discovers that he could die at any moment without an operation he refuses to have—may be about to end in an instant. One Last Thing Before I Go demonstrates yet again Tropper's deft touch with the darkest of materials and his ability to make readers laugh out loud in one paragraph and move them to tears in the next.

My Thoughts: I'd heard a lot of good things about Jonathan Tropper's work, but I somehow never came across one of his novels in all of my wanderings through my library. Then, I stumbled upon this one. His latest work, telling the story of an old pop star who finds out that there is a tear in his aorta. Instead of having the operation to save him, he decides that he would rather just die than continue to live out his days the way that he has been doing for the past seven years. I mean, reading the description of this book just sounds depressing and made me wonder if I should try something a little lighter. But I decided to go for it and read this one, and it turned out to surpass my expectations for this novel.

As I said before, the synopsis of the book makes it sound very dark and bleak, as if there is no hope left in Silver's life at all. But Tropper never goes to that dark place. Instead, he shows you a man who realizes that he does not have a great, fulfilling life. And that man makes a decision to just live out the remainder of his days, trying to find the happiness that has alluded him for years now. Tropper created Silver, the main character, as someone who is flawed and makes it easy for you to see all of the flaws. Silver isn't someone who you would normally root for, but you are on his side, seeing that his life isn't much and that maybe this is the best decision for him. In all of his encounters those few days after he receives his diagnosis, Silver tries to make amends in his life, mostly with his daughter and ex-wife, who is about to remarry. Seeing Silver try (but not always knowing how to reconnect with people) really connected with me as the reader, and that's more than I can say for most main characters. Instead of having him be some overachiever in his last days, Tropper just lets Silver live. He doesn't make it a noble quest to rediscover his loved ones or search out the meaning of life. Instead, Silver just stumbles along, trying to think of the right things to say to people.

This was my first Tropper novel, but it won't be my last. In this novel, he tackled such hard topics with such a light-hearted way that it endeared me to him as an author. If you are looking for something with substance but not a slog to get through, then you need to read this novel! It has substance, but Tropper writes in such an effortless way that you are never overwhelmed.

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