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!