Thursday, July 14, 2011

I leave you ... with questions.

I'm preemptively posting some discussion questions on This Is Where I Leave You.

  1. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel's protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife's infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?

  2. What was your first impression of Judd's wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd's perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or without a baby girl to raise?

  3. Discuss Judd's mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?

  4. One of the largest subjects of the book is parenting. Discuss the various parents in the book (Judd and Jen; Wendy and Barry; Hillary and Mort; Linda) and consider the statement (or statements) that Tropper makes about the responsibilities of a parent to his or her child, and, conversely, the responsibilities of a child to his or her parent.

  5. Similarly, what comment is Tropper making about the role of trauma and tragedy in our lives? Almost every character in this book suffers or has suffered: Phillip from his neglected/overindulged childhood; Judd from his wife's infidelity; Horry from his brain damage; Paul from the Rottweiler attack; Wendy from her unhappy marriage; and Alice from her infertility. What does their unhappiness, and the way each person copes with that unhappiness, teach us?

  6. Most of the characters in this novel struggle against living up to an ideal established either by themselves or by a friend, family member, or spouse. Judd fails to be the perfect husband, brother, and son; Jen fails to be the perfect wife; Wendy fails to be the perfect mother and Alice fails to become a mother at all. Mort and Hillary Foxman, it turns out, fail their children spectacularly in some ways while succeeding in others. What do the lives of these characters reveal to us about perfectionism, ideals, and our expectations for ourselves and others?

  7. Also, compare and contrast the various romantic relationships in this book: who, do you think, had the most admirable or lasting relationship? Who had the most realistic one? Who had the most insurmountable problems? (Is there such a thing as an insurmountable problem, especially looking at problems from Phillip's point of view?)

  8. For all of their faults, is the Foxman clan a likeable group of people? What makes them an endearing group of people? Who did you like the most, and who did you find the least appealing, and why? Were there any characters you would have liked to see developed further?

  9. Throughout the book Judd has recurring nightmares that often involve a prosthetic limb. Discuss the way these dreams acted as elements of foreshadowing and symbolism throughout the narrative. Consider, too, how they reflected Judd's emotional state as the novel progresses.

  10. What did you think of Judd's exit at the end of the shiva? Was his disappearance in Phillip's Porsche realistic? Appropriate? Did you find it a satisfying resolution to the book?


  1. Way to take the fun out an easy read book, by making me think. :-P

    1. I immediately was drawn into this book by the protagonist's dry sense of humor, and the poignant, astute things he would point out about people and relationships. I found it interesting that even though he would be talking about serious and often sad things (losing the one he loved so much, losing a baby), he somehow managed to still keep it light, and I didn't feel weighed down by its emotions, while I could still feel his pain. The characteristic that took me a little time of getting used to of his was the fact that he was constantly falling in love with women. It irritated me that he would create entire personalities of a woman he would see at a stop-light -- imagine an entire relationship with her, based on nothing but his imagination. It was seriously delusional and twisted I thought ... but then I thought about how when you are in certain phases of your life (and I know we've all been there), you do create more in your imagination than is there in real life ... and it made me realize that guys do this as much (if not more) than girls, which was kind of an eye-opener for me.

    2. Initially I actually didn't have any sentiments attached to Jen. She wasn't a bitch, she wasn't a good person at heart or anything -- she was just the woman that had cheated on Judd after so many years of marriage. Slowly, of course, as you start to see the situation, you see that there's more-than-meets-the-eye, and it becomes like any real life situation -- full of grays. I do like the fact that there was no definite resolution left in the end of the book -- which is usually something that is a pet-peeve of mine -- but in this case, it would have been too simplified to solve this crisis over a 7 day Shiva ... and I liked that we saw the characters starting to work together in a direction, without specifying which way it would finally go.
    Another interesting point for me in the book was when we'd been seeing Paul as the asshole older brother the entire time ... and after their fight at the Hooters-wannabe place, the entire situation is totally flipped and we see Judd as the asshole, selfish brother.

    3. I thought Hillary was a hilariously, f---ed up mother ... and loved the irony that she's a parenting Guru. Shows how much full of shit those books can be ... or how they're great in theory, but it's totally different to actually apply those techniques and yield the theoretical results you thought you would have. I'd love to read that book, lol.

    There are too many questions Vaish, I'm done. But my favorite character in the book ... I think it would have to be Phillip. He's such a loose canon, and very childlike and still seeking validation and approval from the rest of his family that I find it endearing.

    Throughout reading this book I kept thinking what a great movie this would make -- don't you guys agree?

  2. I'm really mad! I wrote a long entry about my thoughts on the book and it didn't post and is nowhere to be found. I don't want to write it up again tonight :(