One Last Thing Before I Go

By Jonathan Tropper

(Penguin/Dutton, $26.95, 336 pages)

Who is this author?

Jonathan Tropper grew up in New Rochelle in New York’s Westchester County, and the angst of suburban living has powered his best-selling novels, which include “Plan B,” “The Book of Joe,” “Everything Changes,” “How To Talk to a Widower” and “This Is Where I Leave You.” His books are known for their cinematic style, which may be because Tropper is also a screenwriter. Next year, on HBO, the show “Banshee,” of which he is co-creator and executive producer, will premiere.

Tropper earned a degree in creative writing at New York University, but then spent eight years running a Manhattan-based company that manufactured displays for jewelry companies while finding time to write. His books explore such topics single life, maturing into married life and living in the suburbs, from a male point of view.

What is this book about?

Drew Silver, a guy in his mid-40s who plays in wedding bands, had his15 seconds of fame years ago, when he was the drummer for a one-hit-wonder rock band that flared brightly but then fizzled. Now he has an ex-wife who is about to marry a decent guy, a Princeton-bound, newly pregnant daughter and, to his shock, a life-threatening heart problem that needs emergency surgery. But Drew resists, thinking his time would be better spent living in the moment and trying to repair his busted relationship with his daughter, as the family looks on, hoping he will decide to save himself. Tropper’s latest asks: can a damaged family find what it takes to fix itself?

Why you’ll like it:

Tropper is especially good at telling stories of family life, more commonly the territory of female writers, from a male perspective. He gets what it is like to come of age in middle age and find yourself suddenly facing death when you have not yet really figured out how to live your life.

A profile of Tropper that ran online in Westchester Magazine describes his work this way:  “His tone is a mixture of Holden Caulfield, Jay McInerney, and Ray Romano, though many critics have compared him to authors Nick Hornby and Tom Perrotta. Because his books all are written in the first person, with an “every guy” tone, his stories feel personal, as if the storyteller could be your neighbor or your favorite barista at the local Starbucks. And when you’re reading his books, you can almost see them as Technicolor movie trailers, thanks to the clever banter, meticulous scene stealers, entertaining adventures, three-dimensional characters, and dramatic fade-ins and –outs.”

What others are saying:

Says Publishers Weekly: In Tropper’s latest comic novel, 44-year-old Drew Silver, the washed-up drummer for one-hit wonders the Bent Daisies, refuses lifesaving surgery to fix a torn aorta—he realizes, after all, “that the lives of everyone close to him seem to improve dramatically once they leave him behind.” Eight years ago, Silver’s band hit it big, he behaved badly, and his wife, Denise, filed for divorce. He has never forgiven himself for losing his family, and since the split, he has languished by the Jersey Turnpike in an efficiency hotel and drummed his life away at weddings and bat mitzvahs. To make his imminent demise even worse, it’s just weeks before Denise remarries (Silver’s doctor), and Silver’s Princeton-bound, 18-year-old daughter, Casey, reveals that she’s pregnant. Silver has decided to let nature run its course, but a mini-stroke leaves him unwittingly voicing his desire to “Be a better man,” sparking a joint effort to reunite their family.”

 “The richly talented Tropper has created an acerbic, middle-aged lost soul who will ultimately illuminate the reasons we stick around on this lopsided planet despite significant temptation to let it go. Readers will love Silver and want to throttle him in equal measure. Eminently quotable, hilariously funny, and emotionally draining, this arresting tour de force will entertain well after the book is done,” says Library Journal.

 “Drew Silver is dying in many ways: his marriage has been over for seven years, his ex-wife is getting remarried, his career as a rock drummer is long past, his 18-year-old daughter is pregnant, and he has a life-threatening heart condition. Tropper finds unexpected humor in all of these incongruous elements. Silver has never been much of a dad or a husband, so when he finds out about his defective heart, he determines he will not have a life-saving operation. After all, what does he have to live for? …To his credit, the awareness of his precarious health causes him to rethink his pathetic life, and he’s able to come up with a to-do list that includes “Be a better father. Be a better man. Fall in love. Die.” By the end of the novel he’s able to cross almost everything off. …In other words, what Silver ultimately achieves is to move beyond the inscription he imagines on his tombstone: his name, the years of his birth and death, and a phrase, the acronym for which is “WTF?” Tropper entertainingly examines the angst of middle-age masculinity as he looks at Silver, a man both growing up and growing old,” says Kirkus Reviews.

“Tropper’s characters are likably zany and fallible, and perhaps more important, funny. One Last Thing Before I Go is a poignant story about facing death and celebrating life, even when things seem well beyond repair,” says Newsweek/The Daily Beast.

“Tropper is a master of the mid-life male coming-of-age story, and his latest is full of the charm and wit his readers cherish,” says Booklist.

When is it available?

You can go get it at the Downtown Hartford Public Library or its Albany, Blue Hills, Camp Field or Mark Twain branches.

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