On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a wonderfully rich story, in the form of a letter, written by a Vietnamese son to his mother who will most likely never read it. She is illiterate and has had a difficult life of her own, which has influenced her parenting skills and contributed to her mental health. Overloaded with the burden of abuse, feeling like an outcast not being a white American and battling with his own sexuality, the adult son comes to terms with his vulnerability, his abusive and unreliable upbringing, his first intimate relationship and his feelings for his mother and grandmother, all while he fearlessly and unapologetically tells the story of his childhood and his search for acceptance.
In the form of a letter to his mother, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous has many tangents that accommodate the author’s trains of thought. It is self-reflective and written poetically, infused with insight gained with age. As the narrator looks back, he describes in detail how kids picked on him, and his mother could not help him because she didn’t speak English. She hit him until he was 13 years old; her violent tendencies possibly due to mental illness. He describes in detail, play by play, his first sexual encounter with another young boy. Expertly conveying the roughness and the tenderness, he reveals his vulnerable and insecure self with no apologies. So much of what he shares is painful and sad, yet we witness glimmers of self-acceptance at his personal turning point when he looked in the mirror and saw something someone could love.
“To be gorgeous (like sunset), you must first be seen, but to be seen allows you to be hunted.”
The author makes interesting structural choices in his novel. He used Moby Dick by Herman Melville as a guide; exploring tangents surrounding the main story to give background and context. The letter format of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous allows the writer to say whatever he chooses without having to worry about a beginning, middle and end, a character arc or a formal conclusion.
Ocean Vuong is a poet and his book is autobiographical in many ways, although we don’t know all of what is fact or fiction. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because he takes us on a unique and beautiful journey; one of a life that is not easy. He nourishes the actual happenings with details of family, tradition, superstition and cultural history which enhance our understanding of this boy. The writing is rich and vibrant, the subject matter excruciatingly painful at times; an unusual combination that makes this a slow, fully absorbing and fulfilling read.
My book group enjoyed On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; some of us listened to it and enjoyed the author’s voice and emotion while others preferred to read so they could take the time to absorb the beautiful language. We found it challenging in our discussion to keep the author and the narrator separate – drawing the line between truth and fiction was murky but in the end we all appreciated the writing and the story. Check out Ocean Vuong’s late night conversation with Seth Meyers to get a feel for what he is like!
Ocean Vuong is the author of the debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 15 other languages worldwide. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize.
Vuong’s writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Harpers, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as a 2016 100 Leading Global Thinker, alongside Hillary Clinton, Ban Ki-Moon and Justin Trudeau, Ocean was also named by BuzzFeed Books as one of “32 Essential Asian American Writers” and has been profiled on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PBS NewsHour, Teen Vogue, VICE, The Fantastic Man, and The New Yorker.
Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he serves as an Assistant Professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at Umass-Amherst.
A raw and honest look at women’s lives based on reports and interviews, Three Women is explicit and intense. Author Lisa Taddeo dives deep into the sexual and emotional world of Maggie, Sloan and Lina, revealing desires and intimate details of the lives over an 8 year period. All of the women’s stories are independent of each other and they are different in many ways, age, social class, location. One is in an unhappy marriage and is having an affair with an old flame. One runs a restaurant with her husband and enjoys an open marriage, yet feelings of power, control and desire are complicated. And finally, the most upsetting for me, one was having an affair with her high school teacher when she was underage and years later she calls him out on it and brings charges against him in a court of law.
These women all have unique and different stories and represent just three of the more than 300 million people living in America, yet some things are universal. The search for approval and acceptance, the need to be desired, and the enjoyment derived from a sense power seem to be consistent. In these relationships, decisions regarding sex and intimacy led to vulnerability and mixed emotions.
Raw, honest and somewhat shocking(to me), Lisa Taddeo lets us in on these women’s lives, sexual practices and emotions. This book is not for everyone, but definitely generates interesting discussion amongst fellow readers.
Lisa Taddeo crisscrossed the United States countless times, moved to six different places, and talked to hundreds of men and women to ultimately find three women whose lives tell the story of desire in America.
Three Women chronicles her findings through the lives of Sloane, Lina, and Maggie. The stories of these three women are not universal, but they are also not uncommon. Lina is an unhappily married woman, who leaves her husband and reignites with an old flame. Maggie is a young woman pursuing legal action against her high school teacher after their affair sours. And Sloane is a happily married restaurateur, whose husband’s desire is fueled by their open marriage.
Taddeo has given voice to unspoken activities fueled by lust and desire throughout her journalism career. She has examined, with precision, incidents by A-listers arising from lust and infidelity for New York magazine, Esquire, Elle, and Glamour.
With Three Women, Taddeo gives a voice to the girl next door, all grown up.
I loved and learned so much reading Maybe You Should Talk To Someone. Heading to therapy when life throws you a curveball may be just the thing you need to face your problems head on. It is a process, not a quick fix, and it can be a wonderfully fulfilling relationship that develops over time. Committing each week to talk with a trained professional has the potential to allow you to feel supported and understood.
Los Angeles Psychotherapist, Lori Gottlieb provides that safe space to her own clients, and after she suffered a personal crisis, she needed that kind of support, so she sought out to find a professional to talk with. In Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, Lori shares her enlightening therapeutic experiences that helped her learn more about herself and allowed her to better help others.
“We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, gives us the privilege to observe growth and change while peeking behind the scenes of therapy sessions, with Lori Gottlieb as the therapist and also as the client. She has a wonderful gift of writing dialog and connecting the reader to her characters through language and humor, causing me to become fully invested in everyone’s lives. I loved when she described one of her client’s crying as “not breaking down but breaking open”. I cried for Lori’s clients: John was having marriage problems and suffered a devastating loss, and Julie was having trouble starting a family and then was facing her imminent death. I could feel compassion through the pages and could tell how breakthroughs with patients seemed to deepen the therapist – patient relationships, increasing trust, and nourishing and feeding Lori, providing her own self awareness and validation in her field of expertise.
“The movement of dance allows our bodies to express our emotions in a way that words sometimes can’t. When we dance, we express our buried feelings, talking through our bodies instead of our minds – and that can help us get out of our heads and to a new level of awareness. “
It is also great to learn a new vocabulary word:
ultracrepidarianism – the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge or competence
Lori Gottlieb allows us to feel deeply and freely, laughing and crying as we take a therapeutic ride with her and people just like us, as they journey to a higher level of self awareness and understanding. She is suffering a loss and her clients are faced with cancer, infertility, relationship problems and all the feelings that go with it. Reading is known to make people more empathetic, and this beautiful book, Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, is a perfect place to start if you want to gain insight into emotions and behaviors of our fellow humans. I loved it and highly recommend it!
Q: I imagine your job is a serious one – people come to you with problems. In your book you also had a problem and were sad and upset and there was an overall feeling of tragedy, yet your book is full of humor and is so heart warming. Are you known to be funny, were things funny in real time or did you add the humorous moments when you were writing?
A: I think life is inherently comic and tragic, sometimes at the same time. One way we manage pain is be seeing the humor in the ridiculousness of the human condition. I mean, we’re all ridiculous at times even though our pain is very real. So the humor was inherent to the narrative. I didn’t need to add anything.
Q: Do you think all that you went through has helped you become a better therapist?
A: I think that seeing Wendell made me a better therapist. As his patient, I got to see a therapist who brought his personality into the room, who was so unselfconscious and authentic while also holding appropriate boundaries. In graduate school, we’re taught to be careful in many ways and sometimes that layer of training gets in the way of being human in the room, of creating a deep, rich experience that ultimately helps the patient most. I wouldn’t be the therapist I am today had I not had that modeled for me by my own therapist. And I think you can see some of that evolution happening in real time in the book, as I leave his office and go to my own, and make different choices in the therapy room with that day’s patients.
Q: Your story was enlightening and gave me a lot to think about. One thing that struck me was the fact that therapists mourn alone due to privacy issues. Did Julie’s husband recognize you at the celebration of her life, or did you attend unnoticed?
A: He knew who I was because I saw Julie at their house for the lat few sessions when she was too sick to come into the office. So I met him then. But I was very much anonymous, by design, at her funeral to protect her privacy.
Q: You described therapy as a relationship between patient and therapist rather than one sided. When you told Wendell he wasn’t a man (meaning you didn’t see him that way, you saw him as a therapist) did you realize that is how others may see you? Is it difficult for you to be stripped of your feminine self and seen as a therapist rather than a woman?
A: I’m still my feminine self in the therapy room – I/m me, in all of the ways i present in the world. That’s the point he was making. We’re not robots, we’re human beings. And patients respond to us the way they respond to people in the world.
Q: I cried so many times while reading your book: you knew exactly how to get to my emotions. Why do you think that is the case?
A: I think the book resonated so widely because it’s real life – not the social media version of life, but just life. And that’s so relatable. Readers are deeply invested in these people because they see parts of themselves in each person I write about. They’re invested in both their hardships and their triumphs. Readers become very attached to these patients, just as I did as their therapist.
Q: What are you reading these days? What do you recommend?
A: I just read the galleys for Elizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again. It’s a follow up to Olive Kitteridge and it’s phenomenal. Can’t recommend it highly enough! I just reviewed it on Goodreads.
Q: I hear your book is going to be a drama series on TV. Can you share any details about it?
A: The TV version is both comedic and dramatic, like the book. Therapists have been portrayed in all kinds of unrealistic ways on TV, so I hope this show helps to change that. It’s about a woman who happens to be a therapist, versus a show about a therapist. And I think that distinction makes all the difference.
LORI GOTTLIEB is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE, which is being adapted for TV with Eva Longoria. In addition to her clinical practice, she writes The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column and contributes regularly to the New York Times. She is sought-after in media such as The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, CNN, and NPR’s “Fresh Air.”
Learn more at LoriGottlieb.com or by following her @LoriGottlieb1 on Twitter.
From the bestselling author of The Banker’s Wife, Cristina Alger’s latest crime thriller, Girls Like Us, takes us to Long Island where a possible serial killer is at large, leaving latina sex workers dead in his wake. Nell, an FBI agent, returns to Suffolk County, the place where her mother was murdered when she was a child, to scatter the ashes of her homicide police officer father after he passed away in a motorcycle accident. His partner asks Nell to step in and help him investigate the murders of the two young Hispanic women. Nell, recovering from a bullet wound and instructed to lay low for a bit chooses to lend a hand, and based on the evidence, she feels her father could be the prime suspect. Are his police force friends covering up for him? Was his recent death truly an accident? And could her father have killed her mother all those years ago?
Through flashbacks, we learn Nell’s backstory, which provides a greater understanding of who she is and her tenuous relationship with her father. I loved her strong, determined attitude to dig in when it comes to the investigation of these young, forgotten victims; an offshore account, a secret apartment and so much more kept me enthralled in this “ripped from the headlines” crime thriller. Cristina Alger is a compelling storyteller; I read Girls Like Us in one day and highly recommend it!
Cristina Alger is a lifelong New Yorker and bestselling author of THE DARLINGS, THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN, THE BANKER’S WIFE and GIRLS LIKE US. A graduate of Harvard College and NYU Law School, she worked as a financial analyst and a corporate attorney before becoming a writer. She lives in New York with her husband and children and is at work on her fifth novel.
A selfie with Cristina Alger at the East Hampton Authors Night in August.
It’s time to stock up on some of the latest and greatest novels out this fall! From Africa to Argentina, England to Dominican Republic, Soviet Russia to New York, my fall reading list spans the globe and covers a variety of engrossing topics, including immigration, families, sex trafficking, abduction, slavery, spies and friendship.
Be sure not to miss the new books released from the authors of past favorites like Olive Kitteridge, The Girl With the Pearl Earring and Me Before You. And it is never too late to pick up the latest by Alice Hoffman, author of more than 30 works of fiction, many in the genre of magic realism, or Hank Phillippi Ryan, award winning investigative reporter, 36 time EMMY winner and author of 11 suspense novels.
As stated in Goodreads:“This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.” So begins Petina Gappah’s powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa—the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone’s body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor’s sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization—the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart—while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.
As stated in Goodreads: Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child….Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.
As stated in Goodreads: In his boldly imagined first novel, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, brings home the most intimate evil of enslavement: the cleaving and separation of families. This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.
As stated in Goodreads:Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). TheNew Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace.
As stated in Goodreads:The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are. Filled with suspense, you may read it quickly to find out what happens, but what happens to Danny and Maeve will stay with you for a very long time.
As stated in Goodreads: What does it mean to lose your mother? What makes a family? How is it possible to survive cruelty and continue to love? In a life that is as unreal as a fairytale, Alice Hoffman’s The World That We Knew takes us on a journey of loss and resistance, good and evil, the fantastical and the mortal, to a place where all roads lead past the angel of death and love is never-ending.
As stated in Goodreads: Law student Rachel North will tell you, without hesitation, what she knows to be true. She’s smart, she’s a hard worker, she does the right thing, she’s successfully married to a faithful and devoted husband, a lion of Boston’s defense bar, and her internship with the Boston DA’s office is her ticket to a successful future.
Problem is–she’s wrong. And in this cat and mouse game–the battle for justice becomes a battle for survival.
As stated in Goodreads: From the author of Jerusalem Maiden comes a remarkable story, inspired by little-known true events, about the thousands of young Jewish women who were trafficked into prostitution at the turn of the 20th century, and whose subjugation helped build Buenos Aires.
As stated in Goodreads:Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.
As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.
As stated in Goodreads: A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.
As stated in Goodreads: LATTICING one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of “happy couples”, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ’n’ beans?
A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder—and a revolution in the novel.
As stated in Goodreads: 1932. After the Great War took both her beloved brother and her fiancé, Violet Speedwell has become a “surplus woman,” one of a generation doomed to a life of spinsterhood after the war killed so many young men. Yet Violet cannot reconcile herself to a life spent caring for her grieving, embittered mother. After countless meals of boiled eggs and dry toast, she saves enough to move out of her mother’s place and into the town of Winchester, home to one of England’s grandest cathedrals. There, Violet is drawn into a society of broderers–women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers.
Violet finds support and community in the group, fulfillment in the work they create, and even a growing friendship with the vivacious Gilda. But when forces threaten her new independence and another war appears on the horizon, Violet must fight to put down roots in a place where women aren’t expected to grow. Told in Chevalier’s glorious prose, A Single Thread is a timeless story of friendship, love, and a woman crafting her own life.
As stated in Goodreads:Celestial Bodies is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, Celestial Bodies is a coiled spring of a novel, telling of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.
As stated in Goodreads:Girl , Edna O’Brien’s hotly anticipated new novel, envisages the lives of the Boko Haram girls in a masterpiece of violence and tenderness. I was a girl once, but not anymore. So begins Girl, Edna O’Brien’s harrowing portrayal of the young women abducted by Boko Haram. Set in the deep countryside of northeast Nigeria, this is a brutal story of incarceration, horror, and hunger; a hair-raising escape into the manifold terrors of the forest; and a descent into the labyrinthine bureaucracy and hostility awaiting a victim who returns home with a child blighted by enemy blood. From one of the century’s greatest living authors, Girl is an unforgettable story of one victim’s astonishing survival, and her unflinching faith in the redemption of the human heart.
As stated in Goodreads:Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, the storytelling itself here is enthralling–the pages fly, and the book is unparalleled in its scope and its epic breadth. Funny, heartbreaking, and rewarding, it is a rich novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.
I always enjoy books by Sally Hepworth and listening to The Mother-In-Law was addictive and so much fun! The mother-in-law relationship has the reputation for being tense and strained, and in this latest book by Hepworth it appears to be the case. Chapters alternate narrators and time periods, between Lucy, the daughter-in-law, and Diana the mother-in-law, and from past to present. Diana had not envisioned her son’s wife to be anything like Lucy, so she kept their relationship distant. Lucy craved Diana’a acceptance, yet was unable to make any great strides towards a closeness over the years, despite her attempts. We learn about Lucy’s early marriage to her husband and the growing of their family as they welcome 3 children. We also learn about Diana’s youth and upbringing, and her early marriage to Tom, leading up to her later years. Then there is a murder, a suicide note, a cancer diagnosis, and family members with deceptive behaviors. Each chapter reveals some crucial piece of information that has us working hard to try and figure out whodunnit!
Even though The Mother-In-Law is a quick read and a fun murder mystery, Sally Hepworth is not shy about bringing up serious issues including ALS, infertility, breast cancer, infidelity and euthanasia, and she dives deep when it comes to family relationships and loyalty. She is a master when it comes to writing dialog, and keeps the story fast moving and engaging. So if you need a break from the rat race and want to pick up a well written novel about people, family secrets and murder…this one is for you!
Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of five novels, most recently The Mother In Law (2019). Sally’s books have been labelled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”.
Sally’s novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 15 languages.
Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.
I loved the heartfelt debut, In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow. In this charming story about an African American family in North Carolina spanning from the 1940s – 1987, and the difficult struggles and complexities of love, we meet Knot. She has an unconventional lifestyle, always reveling in her freedom, as she lives alone, reads books and drinks a lot and whenever she pleases.When Knot gets herself into a bit of trouble, she reaches out to her neighbor and friend, Otis Lee for help. Otis Lee is loyal and trustworthy and steps up for his friend, but there are deeply hidden family secrets he is unaware of that have unknowingly altered his life and are making an impact on the ones he loves.
The troubled past and longtime friendships weave this small town community together through the generations and De’Shawn Charles Winslow captures our attention with his vivid voice and memorable characters. From out of wedlock pregnancies to disowned family members, Winslow depicts this big-hearted, southern community as gossip-filled and passionate, with tension and hurt along with love and support. I loved this story and highly recommend the heart warming and heart breaking In West Mills.
De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s recent book is In West Mills. He was born and raised in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and in 2003 moved to Brooklyn, New York. He is a 2017 graduate of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and holds a BFA in creative writing and an MA in English literature from Brooklyn College. He has received scholarships from the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. De’Shawn lives in East Harlem.
Toby Fleishman is a short, Jewish liver doctor with a few hangups, but a seemingly sincere family man. Newly separated from his wife of 15 years, he unexpectedly finds solace in online dating apps. He is overwhelmed with the attention he is getting, basking in the never before received interest from the ladies. Bombarded with sexy photos and texts, Toby tries to stay focused on his patients at work and being a good parent to his young daughter and son.
His ex-wife, Rachel, a successful talent agent, drops the kids off to him earlier than he expects one summer morning, based on their separation agreement, and after several days she is not returning messages. After quite a while of not answering her phone, she now seems to have disappeared, and Toby is left with the question of where she is, and whether or not he truly understood his wife to begin with. Fleishman Is In Trouble is easy to follow and so enjoyable; a smart, humorous look at marriage and relationships.
Toby’s best friend Libby, a girl he met on a trip to Israel with his friend Seth when they were young and single, is back in touch after many years and is being a good friend to him, meeting him for lunch and trying to help solve his current problems without mentioning her own personal struggles.
Libby feels compassion and empathy for him, much like the reader is meant to, and we understand Toby’s marriage and divorce situation from his point of view. Once we are completely absorbed in Toby and his troubles, Libby mentions to him that he is so busy with the dating apps, he hasn’t realized SHE could use a friend, and that she has some problems too.
This is when I realized I got so sucked in to feeling sorry for Toby, I may have been manipulated by the author to see only one side of the Fleishman marriage. And that is one of the many wonderful aspects of the author’s writing as she is able to bring her audience on the ride with her and ultimately sharing different perspectives. With her story of Toby and Rachel, along with other sub-plots like the one with the patient that has Wilson’s Disease, Brodesser-Akner highlights the idea that we may be able to predict our future if we are observant and look hard enough.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner is an acute observer and talented journalist, known for her profile pieces on famous people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Bradley Cooper. She has an incredible talent for pulling the reader in to all she writes about, and then tells you something that causes a seismic shift in your thinking! Speaking to the human condition, she allows you to empathize with each of her characters even though we can clearly see their flaws, not to mention her witty commentary that keeps you laughing out loud. Her sense of humor brings additional charm just when comic relief is needed and I experienced many moments of joy and delight while reading, all the while thinking this would make a great tv show!
The author has no problem getting into the head of a man and providing the male perspective of his relationship.Toby didn’t really consider where Rachel was coming from or how she might feel – she didn’t clearly communicate it to him, but he had little intuition.She was having a breakdown, her upbringing contributed to her style of mothering and she was struggling, yet nobody was there to help her get through it. Because of Toby’s point of view, I disliked Rachel until, through Libby, I learned more about her. Taffy Brodesser-Akner took over the power of my emotions with her vivid observations, guiding me to feel the way she intended.
I really loved this heartbreaking and hilarious story of marriage, with valuable insights into how men and women think and communicate. The NYC upper east side references were pure joy, as my husband and I lived in the Wellesley on 72nd St. and ate at EJ”s in the early 1990s, so it was a welcomed walk down memory lane (or 3rd Avenue) for me! Fleishman Is In Trouble is a smart, humorous and accurate look at marriage, midlife, dating and relationships and reminds us that paying attention now can help us to navigate in the future.
It is worth your time to check out the three links below!
Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine. Prior to that, her work appeared in GQ, ESPN the Magazine, Matter, Details, Texas Monthly, Outside, Self, Cosmopolitan and many other publications. Fleishman Is In Trouble is her first novel.
You may want to grab a copy of a few favorites of mine from 2018; all of these great books left me thinking and wanting to discuss.
White Houses by Amy Bloom, about Eleanor Roosevelt and her lover, The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya, about a young girl who escaped the Rwandan Massacre, Tin Man by Sarah Winman, about two young men who journey toward their truth and His Favorites by Kate Walbert about teenage vulnerability.