Doug Parker is a widower. A beautiful, slim, sad man who is obsessed with mourning his wife and being consumed with grief. A year after his wife's death in a plane crash, Doug finds himself unwilling to move on. His job as a magazine writer affords him the sort of solitary lifestyle wherein he doesn't need to even leave his house to go to work. He can sit at home, drown his sorrows in Jack Daniels, avoid phone calls from his friends and family, and mourn. Because what else is a 29-year-old widower supposed to do?
Enter Doug's twin sister, Claire. Claire, notorious for her potty mouth and unwillingness to take no for an answer, is determined that Doug get himself back on the market, the first step of which is to get him laid. Temporarily moving in with him, Claire sets out to find Doug a companion among the rich, suburban divorcees in his neighborhood. Along with Claire comes Doug's stepson, Russ. Since his mother's death, Russ has been getting into more and more trouble at school, smoking pot, and getting tattoos. Though Doug has semi-washed his hands of the situation (he isn't really Russ's stepfather anymore, is he?), he can't help but feel partially responsible as he watches the boy falling apart. Together, these three learn to navigate the twists and turns of grief, familial obligation, and moving on.
When the book starts out Doug is one of the saddest, most broken characters I've ever read, but his wit, self-deprecating charm, and fierce love for his wife make him the sort of man who you just want to put back together again. My heart broke for the shattered remnants of his happiness and, over the course of the novel as I watched him slowly rebuild what he'd lost, I only became more emotionally involved with the story. The supporting characters, most notably Russ and Claire, are also richly drawn and entertaining in a way that makes me appreciate my own dysfunctional family.
Jonathan Tropper's newest novel isn't just a story about grief, though the undertone is there. It's not simply a story about loss, though to discredit its place in the story would be a lie. It's, in the truest sense of the term, a love story. One that broke my heart and threatens to do so again and again because, though I am not a person who rereads books, I already can't wait until enough time has passed that I can read this story again and get lost in the characters, the emotions, and the sense of utter fulfillment I felt when I finished it. This book isn't just good, it's spectacular. It's of a caliber that I would, and will, hand it out as gifts for birthdays and Christmas because it's the type of thing that you just have to pay forward. I don't give out five-star reviews like candy at Halloween, and I don't gush about books just for the sake of doing it, hopefully after reading this review you'll understand what an exceptional book this was and be tempted to try it for yourself.