The plot of this novel is simple enough, like a few others I have read to date: a recently separated man unsure of what to do next. However, none of them quite made me laugh like this book did. Although the humor and language is at times crude and explicit (some pushes the edge for me), it is still a book I enjoyed a lot. Soon after Judd Foxman catches his wife Jen ( he later finds out she is pregnant) sleeping with his boss (the funniest but raunchiest scene ever), his father dies with a request that the family sits shiva and stay for a whole week at their parents' house. The book is in essence his dysfunctional family's coming together over the next seven days, a roller-coaster ride of one-liners and emotions: sad, raw, hilarious, shocking, outrageous but also mostly tender, honest and moving.
"Dad's dead," Wendy says offhandedly, like it's happened before, like it happens every day. It can be grating, this act of hers, to be utterly unfazed at all times, even in the face of tragedy. "He died two hours ago."(opening lines)
'My marriage ended the way these things do: with paramedics and cheesecake.'(15)
'Mom is a shrink, obviously. But she's more than that. Twenty-five years ago she wrote a book called Cradle and all: A Mother's Guide to Enlightened Parenting. The book was a national phenomenon and turned my mother into something of a celebrity expert on parenting. Predictably, my siblings and I were screwed up beyond repair.'(35)
"Be quiet!" Paul hisses at us. Phillip winks at me. And here we stand at our father's grave, the three Foxman men, all roughed from the same template but put through different finishing process. We each have our father's dark curly hair and square, dimpled chin, but there would be no mistaking us for twins. Paul looks like me, only bigger, broader, and angrier; me on steroids. Phillip looks like me, only slimmer and much better-looking, his features rendered more gracefully, his smile wide and effortlessly seductive.'(37)
'If you've ever been in a failed marriage, and statistically speaking, it's a safe bet that you have, or if not, that you soon will be, then you'll know that the first thing you do at the end is reflect on the beginning. Maybe it's some form of reverse closure, or just the basic human impulse toward sentimentality, or masochism, but as you stand there shell-shocked in the charred ruins of your life, your mind will invariably go back to the time when it all started.'(51)
'I'm supposed to be decades away from this, supposed to be just starting my own family, but there's been a setback, a calamitous detour, and you wouldn't think you could get any more depressed while sitting shiva for your father, but you'd be wrong. Suddenly, I can't stop seeing the footprints of time on everyone in the room. The liver spots, the multiple chins, the sagging neck, the jowls, the flaps of skin over eyes, the spotted scalps, the frown lines etched into permanence, the stooped shoulders, the sagging man breasts, the bowed legs. When does it all happen? In increments, so you can't watch out for it, you can't fix it. One day you just wake up and discover that you got old while you were sleeping.'(66)
'I am going to be a father, just when I've lost my own. There are some who would see a certain divine balance in that, one soul departing to make room for another, but I'm not that guy. I don't believe in God when I'm in trouble, the way so many people do. But at times like this, when the irony seems too cruel and well crafted to be a coincidence, I can see God in the details. Due to some mental hiccup I can't explain, when I think of God, I picture Hugh Hefner: a thin, angular man with a prominent chin in a maroon smoking jacket.'(141)
'You never know when it will be the last time you'll see your father, or kiss your wife, or play with your little brother, but there's always a last time. If you could remember every last time, you'd never stop grieving.'(156)
'... the only thing you can ever really know about anyone is that you don't know anything about them at all.'(188)
'It's a sad moment when you come to understand how truly replaceable you are.'(215)
'There are tricks to paying a shiva call. You don't want to come during off-peak hours, or you risk being the only one there, face-to-face with five surly mourners who, but for your presence, would be off their low chairs, stretching their legs and their compressed spines, taking a bathroom break, or having a snack. Evenings are your safest bet, after seven, when everyone's eaten and the room is full. Weekday afternoons are a dead zone. Sunday is a crapshoot. Do a drive-by and count the park cars before you stop. If you're lucky, there will always be a conversation going on when you come in, so you won't have to sit there trying to start one of your own. It's hard to talk to the bereft. You never know what's off limits.'(234)
'Sometimes, contentment is a matter of will. You have to look at what you have right in front of you, at what it could be, and stop measuring it against what you've lost. I know this to be wise and true, just as I know that pretty much no one can do it.'(255)
'You can do everything right and still end up alone, watching time run off the clock.'(301)
Dutton First Edition
Personal Note: I read this book while waiting to be called for jury duty, trying not to laugh too loud in the waiting room of the court house. This book reminded me of Larry David's (creator of Seinfeld) sense of humor. If you are familiar with his show 'Curb your Enthusiasm' and you like it, you will probably enjoy this book!!