How to Talk to a Widower: A Novel Paperback – Jun 24 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
A portrait of a modern guy in crisis, Tropper's third novel (Everything Changes; The Book of Joe) follows Doug Parker, whose life is frozen into place at 29 when Hailey, his wife of two years, is killed in a plane crash. Unable to leave the tony suburban house they once shared, he spends his days reliving their brief marriage from the moment he found her sobbing in his office over troubles with her first husband. At the same time, Doug's magazine column about grieving for his wife has made him irresistible to the media (book deals, television spots and the like are proffered) and to a wide array of women who find him "slim, sad and beautiful." Though stepson Russ is getting in trouble at school and Doug's pregnant twin sister, Claire, moves in, no amount of crying to strippers can keep Doug from the temptations of his best friend's wife or Russ's guidance counselor. Alternately flippant and sad, Tropper's book is a smart comedy of inappropriate behavior at an inopportune time. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Mixing pathos and comedy in equal measure, Tropper (Everything Changes, 2005) tells the story of "slim, sad, and beautiful" Doug Parker. A year after his wife Hailey's death in a plane crash, 29-year-old widower Doug is still grieving heavily and has abandoned all pretense at civility and discretion. When people ask him how he's doing, he makes the mistake of actually telling them the truth, which inevitably includes a catalog of his antidepressant medications and his ongoing nightmares. Yet people keep making demands on him: his sweet, emotionally bereft stepson wants Doug to adopt him; Doug's twin sister, Claire, wants to set him up on a series of blind dates; and his agent is pressuring him to write a book as a spin-off of his wildly popular magazine column on mourning, but Doug refuses to become the "poster boy for young widowers." With superb comic timing, Tropper keeps the sappiness at bay by juxtaposing tender scenes that often feature Doug's reminiscences about meeting and marrying his wife with very funny, often vitriolic dialogue. Wilkinson, Joanne
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I couldn't wait to see how he'd extract himself out of situations and was routing for him to pull his life together as the story moved along at a rapid pace. I was absorbed after a few short pages and whipped through this novel in a few days and although told through narrative incorporated with flashbacks, his articles, emails, and an odd description of a date, it still managed to flow smoothly. Even the flashbacks didn't seem too intrusive (although I'm still not a huge fan of them).
The ensemble cast was quirky, realistically flawed and impeccably well defined. I loved the father's character and observing their relationship held some of my favourite moments in this well crafted tale.
Having been the first Jonathan Tropper novel I've read, I will definitely seek his books out in the future as well as any of his past publications. If they're anything like How to Talk to a Widower, I can't wait to read them all!
The novel begins a year later as the irrepressible Doug is trying to piece his shattered life back together and also raise his rebellious teenage stepson Russ. Russ hasn't disturbed anything since Hailey died, the house like a freeze-framed picture of the life they had, "snapped in the instant before it was obliterated." Doug tries to purge his negative thoughts through writing a popular magazine column, which details his life as a widower, but in reality, he spends most of his bedraggled, unshaven, bloodshot days drowning his sorrows in drink and dope, always "sad, pissed and lazy."
Russ is also doing his fair share of drugs, turning up late at night on Doug's doorstep, yet again in trouble with the police for fighting and vandalism, and inevitably fuelling Doug's frustrations and grief. Indeed, Doug and Russ have become pretty emblematic of the modern dysfunctional family with the lack of personal boundaries between both of them becoming an issue that can no longer be ignored.
It's been a year since Hailey's death and his family and friends seem to think that's the shelf life of grief, time to get back out there, they say. But honestly who wants to go out with a depressed twenty-nine year old widower with no real career or goals to speak of.Read more ›
However, the book was also really funny in places. It has a rather black humour in places and a rather wry humour in places but it definitely worked well with the more serious undertone of the book. Although some of the situations that occur in the book are a bit corny and maybe a bit fantastical, its still a great book and a great read. One I would highly recommend! If you're looking for another great read try The Fates by Tino Georgiou.
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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.
In the real world, Doug has a teenage stepson - the dearly departed Mrs. Parker was 11 years older than her hubby - who shares both Doug's loss and his emotional maturity level. Doug's comedic dysfunctional family is very concerned about him and in their own special way decides to help him out of his funk. This is all very reminiscent of This Is Where I Leave You. In fact this novel reads like an unpolished earlier version of that book and unfortunately, is nowhere near as entertaining.
The specific differences between the two stories are superficial, otherwise the books' plots, characters, family dynamics and even the dialog are very, very much the same. Both read like screenplays - again for the same movie - but with the Widower's protagonist less likeable; the "flow" less even and the "jokes" less funny. (The silly fairy tale ending to Widower doesn't help either.)
So my suggestion - skip this book and read the finished product, This Is Where I Leave You.
Doug Parker is a twenty-nine-year-old widower facing the most painful thing a person could go through: he has lost significant other to a plane crash. His grief runs deep, and he misses his wife more than anything. He is angry with the world, and he believes in no one or in anything. As if his own problems weren't bad enough, he has a stepson going through his own grieving issues. His family is beyond dysfunctional. His twin sister is pregnant and has left her husband; his younger sister is marrying to a man she met when Doug's wife died; his father has a bad case of Dementia and his mother, a former actress, deals with everything by popping tranquilizers like they were candy. Life seems pointless for Doug, but not for the people around him. In his upper-class Connecticut neighborhood, he has become something of a celebrity and a babe magnet. Single women seek him out, desperate housewives seduce him. A struggling writer, he once wrote a magazine column called "How to Talk to a Movie Star." In his grief, his column became "How to Talk to a Widower." And his career seems promising all of a sudden. His columns have become so popular that publishers are offering him gigantic book deals. But none of that matters to Doug. In his mind, he's a screw-up. Always has been, always will be. The one good thing in his life -- his beautiful older wife Hailey -- is gone forever. What is the point of everything else?
Jonathan Tropper is a great writer. His novels are edgy and cutting edge -- his language dark, frank and at times brutal. He is often compared to Nick Hornby, but he's got a great style of his own that makes him stand out among other "lad lit" writers. What I like about How to Talk to a Widower is that Doug is truly sympathetic in spite of his somewhat anti-heroish attitude. He has depth, lots of it, and you feel his pain. His grieving process is very believable. Doug is, in all purposes, a very sensitive man, especially now that he grieves for his beloved wife, and that makes him very appealing to the opposite sex. Tropper has finally created a character whose "I'm a loser" attitude actually works in the storyline, for the heroes in his previous novels come across as whiny and petty for no good reason in comparison. The novel loses momentum in the last several chapters -- the scenes become too melodramatic and Hollywood film-like for my taste -- but the story itself is compelling and addictive and I cannot recommend it enough.
However, his woes turn uglier when his pregnant twin sister Claire leaves her husband and moves in with Doug and Russ. Her plan is to force her brother to move on with his life. Local females sympathize with Doug while a few want to be the one who take him out of his depression starting with the wife of his best friend, the strippers he meets, and the guidance counselor who worries about both males residing in the Parker home.
This is a well written character study of a young man grieving the unexpected death of his wife after just a couple years together. Doug is an interesting protagonist as he deals with issues ranging from guilt to loneliness to failing Russ, who has his own problems. The outside world wants in to his fishbowl adding more troubles to a troubled soul. Jonathan Tropper provides a strong tale that looks at the grief process from the differing perspective of a man under thirty unable to cope.