Monday, December 28, 2009

I talked to a widower, and I liked it

My current favorite contemporary novelist is Jonathan Tropper. He combines pathos and comedy in his stories effortlessly. After reading his latest novel This Is Where I Leave You, I've been on the hunt for all his previous works. So it was a joyful, joyful day when I saw How to Talk to a Widower in the shelves of a local bookstore this week. I had high hopes for this novel, and, sure enough, this novel didn't disappoint.

The widower in How to Talk to a Widower is Doug Parker, a 29-year-old who lost his 40-year-old wife Hailey in a plane accident. It is not just him that's dealing with this loss; Hailey's 16-year-old son, Russ, has been left under Doug's care. Russ is becoming extremely difficult to deal with lately, often finding himself involved in fights in school. Doug becomes prime dating real estate because of his status -- he's slim, sad, beautiful, and broken. When the upper class neighborhood gets wind that he's in the dating scene again, it's enough to create several comedic scenarios involving single and divorced ladies, whom his twin sister Claire sets him up with.

Tropper has created a very lovable character in his widower. Doug is a writer so obviously he's very introspective with his thoughts. His column, naturally titled "How to Talk to a Widower," is very insightful. I wouldn't be surprised if Tropper wrote some parts of his experiences in Tropper; his writing just feels so rich in context.

I can see that having dysfunctional families can be a pivotal theme in Tropper's novels. The Parkers are just as weird and funny as the Foxmans of This Is Where I Leave You. Doug's family provides several hysterical but heartwarming moments that play a role in Doug's ultimate redemption from his sad and lonely existence. Doug has always found himself to be an outsider among his high-profile sisters, but the loss of his wife provides a vehicle for his family to come together for him in all their idiosyncrasies and weirdness.

How to Talk to a Widower is so entertaining that you barely even know that you've reached the mid-point of the novel. It's been optioned for a movie, which is something I'm really not looking forward to seeing. The novel just has too many nuances, too many fine details, that won't translate well into the silver screen. I say, let's not mess with things that are already brilliant as they are.

Read this book if:
  1. You love the novels of John Irving, Tom Perrotta, and Nick Hornby.
  2. You've dated someone who's wallowing in self-pity.
  3. You go for sad, slim, and beautiful people.

18 comments:

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

I loved your reasons #2 and #3 for reading this book. :) I'm going to have to remember this author for when I'm in a contemporary kind of mood. (which sadly isn't as much as it should be.) I have an award for you if you'd like it at My place

Peter S. said...

Hi, Buckeye Girl! Thanks for the award! I'll check it out.

Miss_Nobody said...

I need to read this book!not just because of reasons 1,2 and 3,but i just like the sound of it,an your wonderful review!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Miss Nobody! You should read it! It's very, very funny!

savidgereads said...

I have a horrible feeling I gave this to a charity shop as I couldnt see why I would like it. Am now kicking myself. It may be in a book box though so will have a hunt in case.

josbookshelf said...

Oooh, I know this is a good book. After all, it is Jonathan Tropper.
Nice review Peter.

Peter S. said...

@savidgereads: Oh, there's lots to love about this book!

@josbookshelf: Hello, fellow Tropper fan!

Jenny said...

Oh I JUST took this back to the library the other day and didn't have a chance to read it. I've heard so many great things about this author. Can't wait to actually get a chance to read one of his books!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Jenny! You should've read it! It's so fun!

gtz said...

I love his Plan B!

Peter S. said...

Hi, gtz! That I haven't read yet. I'll be on the lookout for it!

SariJ said...

I am waiting for This is where I leave you. I am 2d in line at my library. I am looking forward to reading it and now see I may have to request this one too. Then again I just stopped dating a guy who is wallowing in self pity, so it may be too soon for this one.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Nice! This sounds like a good one, and I love Irving, Perrotta, and Hornby, so I should definitely check this one out...

Peter S. said...

@SariJ: This Is Where I Leave You is probably one of my favorite reads for this year. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

@A Bookshelf Monstrosity: Yes, this is a good one. It's so funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

Alexia561 said...

Peter, you always seem to find the most interesting books! Will have to add this to my wishlist, as I loved your review! Have to agree with you about the movie option; I tend to stay away from movies made out of beloved books, as they can never compare.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Alexia! Thanks so much for your comment. As much as possible, I try to vary the books I read. I usually feel saturated if I stick to one genre.

Ceri said...

This sounds like something I'd really enjoy. Added to my wishlist as I type. :D This is a brilliant review, Peter.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Ceri! Thanks!