by Jonathan Tropper
"I had a wife. Her name was Hailey. Now she's gone. And so am I."
The entry below will openly analyze Jonathan Tropper's How to Talk to a Widower and address specifically its possible themes, symbols and intent. No plot-related spoilers will be divulged.
In heated August, walking across the lot of a Rochester's cooperate copy Barnes & Noble, floating on the high of a book purchase, I had no way of knowing that the two attractive hardcovers in the bag at my side were in fact two copies of the exact same novel. All I knew at the time was that Amazon editors had selected Tropper's This is Where I Leave You as their book of the month, and that at $5.99, a hardcover copy of Tropper's How to Talk to a Widower was a steal.
In truth they're not exactly the same novel. This is Where I Leave You is a novel about the nature of family, cemented with an interest in grief. How to Talk to a Widower is a novel about grief, cemented with an interest in the nature of family. The redundancies in plot, situation, and tone hit the levels of Woody Allen, except that unfortunately Tropper doesn't have the skill, charm, or even the intelligence to make that okay.
A second reading of Tropper tares off the flimsy sheet of sensational sentimentalism that he uses to disguise his masturbatory fiction as something other than it is. The self-indulgent narrator an apparent default for Tropper, or worse, possibly only a standee for Tropper himself, immersed in the center of a sex-and-fist-fight narrative with a wet-dreameque happy ending spared from being obviously so only by its optimistic ambiguity.
We all want our dysfunctional families to come together at the crucial moment. We all want to live in a world where past the storm clouds are blue skies, where although no one will come out and say it-- the guy always gets the girl. We all want that, and Tropper is happy to dole it out in spoonfuls. It's so sweet it washes out the taste of his mediocre metaphors, and the irritating qualities of his generation X protagonist, but God help you if you go back for seconds. Once you realize you're eating sugar coated shit, nothing else tastes quite worse.
If Dan Brown is the literary world's mystery-thriller flick, Jonathan Tropper is its sticky sweet, zany feel-good movie. Here is just another gen X author, writing for a gen X protagonist, in what I can only call the gen X novel given its ubiquity. Tropper benefits from a juvenile sense of humor, and occasionally keen sense of observation but underneath, it's really all just more of the same.
Up Next: George Williams' Degenerate.