Sunday, February 21, 2010

The more things change...

Ever heard of the saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same"? It's something I will never figure out; it's so zen koan. I do want to offer an alternative -- the more things change, the more you want things to stay the same. We all want change, but only if it's for the better. But any unwelcome, sudden changes that happen to our lives, the more we long for the "good old days."

Consider Zachary King, the 32-year old main character of Jonathan Tropper's novel, Everything Changes. He lives in a luxurious rent-free apartment in Manhattan courtesy of his millionaire best friend, Jed. He has a beautiful fiancee, Hope, who comes from a very rich family. He has a fairly stable job. Overall, Zach lives a pretty much uneventful and uncomplicated life, one that is free from any major responsibilities. But within the next few days, Zach's life becomes more interesting.

First, Zach may have bladder cancer, after seeing that he's pissing blood and undergoing a series of tests including a very uncomfortable biopsy. (I cringed reading about this very descriptive part.) Second, he feels that he's not that in love with Hope anymore. He's falling more and more in love with Tamara, the widow of his other best friend, Rael, who died in a car accident. Third, his long-absent father, Norm, suddenly appears at his doorstep, making amends. Norm left his family almost 20 years ago. And let's just say that Zach, his two brothers, and their mother, Lela, aren't too pleased about this.

What happens in the novel as Zach learns to face these changes is so funny that you tend to forget how serious some of these problems appear to be. I think that's why Tropper is brilliant, and why he's my current favorite novelist. Despite the humorous scenes in Everything Changes, Tropper doesn't trivialize his themes. You feel that Zach is your troubled best friend and you just can't help but root for him and wish that everything turns out well. But this is a Tropper novel; there's no silver lining for every problem, which makes this novel a very pragmatic one.

What is it with Jonathan Tropper's novels that make them so addicting? Is it the wit? Is it the lovable but flawed characters? (Families, especially dysfunctional ones, are a major element in his novels.) Is it the hysterical scenarios that have been so graphically described? Is it the engaging narrative? It could be all of these. I do love the fact that Tropper's novels are all heartwarming. I think Tropper is our new John Irving. Everything Changes is one satisfying read. It is by turns serious, profound, and honest.

A fellow bibliophile introduced me to a new term -- lad lit. It's a genre of novels, such as those of Nick Hornby, that have a broad appeal among men. Everything Changes (and all of the novels of Tropper for that matter) may be considered lad lit. But women would still definitely find Everything Changes enjoyable as the novel can allow them to find out what men think when faced with unusual circumstances.

Read this book if:
  1. You want to sample lad lit.
  2. You find it difficult coping with unwanted changes.
  3. You just like a rollicking good read.


Jenny said...

This sounds so good!! (As do his other books). And I love the term lad lit... I had already made it sort of an informal goal to read some more of this "genre" this year. My husband would love it too, I'm sure, so I'll have to tell him about it!

Peter S. said...

Lad lit can be so addicting!

Vivienne said...

I quite like the reviews you have done so far of Troppers books. I like the sound of this one alot.
Lat lit - I love that term.

martine frampton said...

Makes me think of the (I think) Chinese 'proverb', which asks for a blessing of an 'uneventful life' (can't recall the wording), because, even though it sounds dull, it can definitely be preferable to events that are unpleasant and out of your control.
sounds a great read
thanks for sharing

Peter S. said...

@Vivienne: People should read more Tropper. His novels are hugely enjoyable.

@martine frampton: Uneventful is so boring! Hehehe. Sometimes though, especially during difficult times, I wish my life were really uneventful.

Anonymous said...

Everytime you review a Tropper novel, I make sure to get it on my wishlist. I think I'd pick up anything he writes.

Oh, I like that term--- lad lit. If there is chick lit, why not lad lit? :D

Peter S. said...

@josbookshelf: I know, right? Why do girls get to have all the fun with chick lit.

Diane said...

I had not heard of this book Peter, but I did enjoy..This is Where I Leave You by this author.I'll add it to my list. Thanks for mentioning it.

Peter S. said...

This Is Where I Leave You was one of my favorite books of last year. It made me hunt for other novels by Tropper.

SariJ said...

Another fine review. I have almost given up on getting This is where I leave you from my library. I have been on a list that is not moving for months now. I have a feeling someone has kept it. I will now look for his books over at Paperback Swap.
Lad-lit huh? I have not heard of this term before now. I like it! I have a Nick Hornsby book to give away over at my blog. The next time I mention my contest I will use the term Lad-lit.

Anonymous said...

You know I was just thinking on setting a challenge for myself - but I didn't know what to call it an Lad Lit is perfect. I read an abundance of women's fiction so I've been toying with compiling and reading from a list of male-centered books. Tropper sounds like a shoo-in.

As for summer in Manila- yikes! Get thee to an air-conditioned building!

Charlie said...

Believe it or not, I finished This is Where I Leave You just last night around midnight. And I loved it.

You're spot-on when you say Tropper is a genius, and I'll definitely read more of him.

Another great review, as usual.

Peter S. said...

@SariJ: I haven't read a Hornby book yet. But High Fidelity is the next book we'll discuss in our book club. I can't wait to read it.

@StephanieD: I can't wait to see your list.

@Charlie: Thanks! I knew that you'll love This Is Where I Leave You.

Ryan G said...

I may have to join in on Stephanie's challenge. The book does sound good and I'm going to have to get my hands on it. Thanks for the review.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Ryan! Tropper's a gas! You'll have fun reading his novels.