Book Beginnings quote:
Toby Fleishman awoke one morning inside the city he'd lived all his adult life and which was suddenly somehow crawling with women who wanted him.Friday56 quote:
That night, Toby took the children to synagogue like he'd done every Friday night before the separation. The problem with Rachel taking any Friday nights was she never took them to synagogue, and so it began to creep into their heads that maybe Friday night services, dinner, and family time were optional, a whim of Toby's that was subject to debate.Summary and Review: At the end of each calendar year many publications create a list of the best books of that year. Last year FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE by Taffy Brodesser-Akner tied at 30 with NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead as the two books on the most best-of-2019 lists. (See the lists here.) I had really high hope for Fleishman Is In Trouble since I loved Nickel Boys and they had the same number of high recommendations.
The book's description, which apparently I didn't scrutinize too closely, said that Toby Fleishman has recently separated from his wife of thirteen years. He is a 41-year-old doctor, a dedicated father, and a practicing Jew. His wife, Rachel, is a talent agent who works long hours and makes lots of money but has little time or patience for family life. Their marriage should have ended long before it did. Then one day she disappears after dropping off the children and doesn't respond to his texts or phone calls. No one knows where she is. Weeks pass. During this time Toby starts to examine his own life. Maybe he isn't the person he thinks he is, either. This all sounds good/interesting/compelling.
Unfortunately I did not like the book one bit and part of the reason is found in the description that I missed: "Toby Fleishman is suddenly, somehow--and at age forty-one, short as ever--surrounded by women who want him: women who are self-actualized, women who are smart and interesting, women who don't mind his height, women who are eager to take him for a test drive with just the swipe of an app. Toby doesn't mind being used in this way; it's a welcome change from the thirteen years he spent as a married man, the thirteen years of emotional neglect and contempt he's just endured." Read the words 'test drive' as sex, lots of sex. Yuck. There was so many women and such horrible and belittling text messages and photos I was disgusted. I wanted to close my eyes and chant la-la-la so I wouldn't have to hear the words spoken on the audiobook. Disgusting. If I had even bothered to read the first line, I would have had a clue, huh?
I didn't like any of the characters in Fleishman Is In Trouble. (Well with one exception: Solly, the nine-year-old son.) I didn't like Toby, Rachel, their daughter, Hannah. I didn't like any of Toby's friends. I didn't like any of the doctors or Rachel's co-workers, and I especially didn't like any of the rich people in the story. Gag. Why would anyone want to have money so they could hang out with rich snobs like that? And why would anyone want to raise their children to be the same way. Awful. I suppose that was one of the points the book was making---one cannot buy happiness.
Oddly the narrator of the book was not Toby or Rachel but a female friend of Toby's from their college days, Elizabeth. She came in and out of the story, sometimes fulfilling the role of a '3rd-person-omniscient narrator' and sometimes as a character in the story. Not until the end of the book do we learn what qualifies her to tell the story in the first place. That chapter, by the way, is the only one I liked. In it this narrator friend talks about the challenges for women in competitive jobs and how they are judged much harsher then men. She made some really good points, but I didn't need to read a whole awful book for one good chapter.
So, you ask, why did I even bother to finish a book I clearly didn't like? Good question. I keep asking myself the same question, too. I kept reading (listening) thinking it would improve. It had to, right? Well, it didn't. And I DO NOT recommend that you read it. You've been warned!