Les Miserables

Lots of books take on weighty subjects, and when they don't do it well, they tend to become overwrought Depression Porn that I just don't enjoy. At some point, I simply stop caring about the characters, and want the entire enterprise to be over as soon as possible. But when it's handled deftly, topics like death and depression are a lot more palatable.

I was able to borrow Jonathan Tropper's latest book from my sister recently, and since I enjoyed his previous one (This Is Where I Leave You) so much, I dove right in. This one is called One Last Thing Before I Go, and like that last novel, dives right into some pretty heavy material. It's about a shell of a man who played drums in a one-hit wonder band, but has nothing going for him since then. He's divorced and estranged from his only daughter, and spends his time commiserating over how terrible everything is with his fellow sad-sacks.

When he's told he needs heart surgery or he'll die, he purposely refuses it, figuring he doesn't have much to live for, anyway. No matter how displeased his family is with him, they don't endorse this elaborate suicide, and he resolves to spend his remaining time repairing all the relationships that have gone awry over the years. As he makes more of an effort to be there for his family, he begins to question whether or not the surgery is worth it, after all.

He's not the only character to question his own motivations. Everyone in this book uses the news about the surgery to do some intense self-examination. A less talented author would have turned this into an interminable slog, but as ever, Tropper turns a miserable set of circumstances into a pretty engaging read.

One Last Thing Before I Go: B


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