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review 2019-11-06 02:49
This Novel is as Troubled as the Eponym
Fleishman Is in Trouble - Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Hr, which was what his preferred dating app was called, was now his first-thing-in-the-morning check. It had replaced Facebook, since when he looked at Facebook, he became despondent and overwhelmed by the number of people he hadn’t yet told about his divorce. But Facebook was also a landscape of roads not taken and moments of bliss, real or staged, that he couldn’t bear. The marriages that seemed plain and the posts that seemed incidental and not pointed, because they telegraphed not an aggressively great status in life but a just-fine one, those were the ones that left him clutching his heart. Toby hadn’t dreamed of great and transcendent things for his marriage. He had parents. He wasn’t an idiot. He just wanted regular, silly things in life, like stability and emotional support and a low-grade contentedness. Why couldn’t he just have regular, silly things? His former intern Sari posted a picture of herself bowling at a school fundraiser with her husband. She’d apparently gotten three Strikes. “What a night,” she’d written. Toby had stared at it with the overwhelming desire to write “Enjoy this for now” or “All desire is death.” It was best to stay off Facebook.

Back with my In Medias Res post about this book, I pretty much covered everything I want to say about this book. I was hoping that the last half would pick up (and I almost decided it did). But, really, it just kept doing what it had been and ended up killing almost all my interest in the book.


The official blurb says:


Toby Fleishman thought he knew what to expect when he and his wife of almost fifteen years separated: weekends and every other holiday with the kids, some residual bitterness, the occasional moment of tension in their co-parenting negotiations. He could not have predicted that one day, in the middle of his summer of sexual emancipation, Rachel would just drop their two children off at his place and simply not return. He had been working so hard to find equilibrium in his single life. The winds of his optimism, long dormant, had finally begun to pick up. Now this.


As Toby tries to figure out where Rachel went, all while juggling his patients at the hospital, his never-ending parental duties, and his new app-assisted sexual popularity, his tidy narrative of the spurned husband with the too-ambitious wife is his sole consolation. But if Toby ever wants to truly understand what happened to Rachel and what happened to his marriage, he is going to have to consider that he might not have seen things all that clearly in the first place.


A searing, utterly unvarnished debut, Fleishman Is in Trouble is an insightful, unsettling, often hilarious exploration of a culture trying to navigate the fault lines of an institution that has proven to be worthy of our great wariness and our great hope.

I'd summarize it as: two messed-up people in a very troubled marriage (that had been troubled for a while), going through a divorce and bringing out the worst in each other and themselves. Hurting careers, friendships, their children and each other along the way. By the time we meet them, they're like many going through a bitter divorce, and are (at least then) terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people doing terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things to each other (while exonerating themselves of all but a few faults). And this is supposed to be comedic.


All of which could have been addressed years ago if they'd just talked to each other and worked together, rather than keeping score, justifying themselves, assuming the worst of each other and holding grudges. But that's neither here nor there.


There were some saving graces:


  • Brodesser-Akner's writing, there are some great passages, great insights, and sentences worthy of praise, study, and quotation. As I said previously, the prose is delightful, there are turns of phrase that I've stopped to re-read. Brodesser-Akner has a sharp wit and an equally sharp eye for observation/social commentary. If/When she publishes a second novel, the technical aspects of b>Fleishman is in Trouble were strong enough that I'll be back.


  • When Toby (a hepatologist) is at work and caring for patients and/or instructing his interns, he's a great character. Inspirational even. I'd read a book about him at work dealing with the bureaucracy of a hospital, insurance companies, young doctors and suffering patients and probably do little beside sing its praises. This, it should be stressed, is not that book.


  • Toby's friend Libby. I don't approve of (not that she asked)/appreciate a lot of her choices and attitudes. But she feels real, she's genuine, she's relatable (even—especially—when she's treating her husband like garbage for no good reason), she deals with her problems (and her friends) in a way that most readers can see themselves in. She actually has a greater role in the novel than you think she will in the first half (or more), but the book would really benefit for more of her.


I have neither the time, inclination, or interest in listing my problems with this novel—just see my summary of the novel as a whole, and we'll call it good.


Based on some of what I've read about this novel, and my own observations, you could get away with calling this a Feminist John Updike. Which is a pretty good summation of why I wouldn't recommend it, actually. It's also reductionistic, so you probably shouldn't say it. However, if a Feminist Updike sounds like something you'd really enjoy (not just are mildly curious about)—you might find yourself enjoying this.


2019 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2019/11/05/fleishman-is-in-trouble-by-taffy-brodesser-akner-this-novel-is-as-troubled-as-the-eponym
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text 2019-10-24 02:50
In Medias Res: Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Fleishman Is in Trouble - Taffy Brodesser-Akner

As the title implies, I'm in the middle of this book, so this is not a review, just some thoughts mid-way through.


Fleishman Is in TroubleFleishman Is in Trouble

by Taffy Brodesser-Akner


This is going to be a tough one to write about when I finish, unless the last half is significantly different than the first (a possibility I'm open to).


It's not the writing. The prose is delightful, there are turns of phrase that I've stopped to re-read. Brodesser-Akner has a sharp wit and an equally sharp eye for observation/social commentary.


But man, I'm just not enjoying this book at all. I don't like the protagonist (I admire the lessons he gives his residents at the hospital)—and he's easily the most likable character in the book. I can't tell you the number of times I've almost DNF'd this.


Here's why I'm sticking with it—I'm curious. Partially to see what the fuss is about (if I can). But more than that, I'm curious about the ending—I've heard it's a killer. And there are two things I want to see where Brodesser-Akner is going with (we might get the answers to all 3 simultaneously). I may not enjoy the book but she's doing everything right to get me to keep reading. Still, I'm afraid this is going to end up being in The Best of Adam Sharp or The Heart of Henry Quantum territory, however--well-written books that I only remember suffering through.

Has anyone out there read this thing? Any encouragement for me?

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2019/10/23/in-medias-res-fleishman-is-in-trouble-by-taffy-brodesser-akner
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review 2019-09-07 17:48
Fleishman Is in Trouble - Taffy Brodesser-Akner

I heard about this book from so many people that loved it and I was reading this yesterday wondering if the author was ever going to get to the point. I didn't dislike any character, I just didn't feel engaged. Brodesser-Akner chose to tell this story via certain narrative styles that didn't work. We have a first person point of view told by someone who used to be close to one of the characters that we follow for most of this book (her name is Elizabeth) and then we then do third person point of view for Toby and then we jump back and forth until the last bit where we get Toby's estranged wife Rachel's point of view. As other reviewers had said I just wanted to focus on Toby and Rachel's story. We had so much thrown at us. I think Brodesser-Akner wants us to get that marriage is complicated, and I got that. I just wish that we had explored the issues that were going on with Rachel more. She felt like an after thought and her story-line was the most powerful to me and why I ended up giving this book three stars.


"Fleishman Is in Trouble" follows almost divorced late 40 something year old Toby Fleishman. Toby we find is now after being in a marriage where he felt like his wife Rachel hated him, is now out there just sleeping with as many women as he can. He feels free from Rachel and her controlling ways and thinks that he can finally move on and not feel as much pressure as he did while married to her. However, Rachel throws a wrench in things when she drops their two kids off at his place (without telling him until after the fact). Toby has plans (to have sex) and tries to juggle the kids and his job as a specialist (he's a liver doctor, no I can't recall the name for it). Toby has reached out to his old friends that he hasn't talked to in a while, Elizabeth and Seth and pretty much talks about himself and the problems with Rachel. However, when Rachel doesn't return like she was supposed to, Toby has to decide what to do next and goes through a lot of highs and lows while trying to parent, trying to get a promotion, and then also trying to get to know a woman that he likes more.


Brodesser-Akner also allows us insight into Toby via another person, his old friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a struggling stay at home mother. She loves her husband and kids, but freels diminished. 

We then round out the characters by Brodesser-Akner then allowing us insight into Rachel. 


I didn't feel annoyed by anyone. I got where everyone was coming from in their individual story-lines. I honestly though though without Elizabeth and Rachel's POVs we would not have gotten a real sense of Toby. You start reading and feel as if he's the wronged husband. Until you see that he wasn't as understanding and loving as he seemed to think he was.


We get some interesting secondary characters including the Fleishman kids. 


The writing was good, though I started to get bored by Toby after a while. I wish that we had maybe started off with Elizabeth, then jumped to Toby, and then stayed with Rachel for the rest of the story. Instead we go from Toby, Elizabeth, back to Toby, Elizabeth, and then Toby, and then I think it went to Rachel, and it goes back to Elizabeth and then Toby. It was a bit much and the flow was up and down for most of this book because of this.


The ending I thought was quite lovely though. You can guess what comes next. And I think the underlying message that marriage is hard, and you have to decide how hard are you yourself going to make it for someone that when you married them, you were in love with hopefully. 

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review 2019-09-01 11:55
Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Fleishman Is in Trouble - Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fleishman Is In Trouble came as a real surprise to me. I don’t know what I expected, but it was better than I’d hoped. It was absorbing with a philosophical slant.


The book is told in three perspectives, firstly by Toby, secondly by his friend from University and lastly by his ex-wife, Rachel. In the present, Toby has his children to stay for a few days while his ex-wife goes on a trip, but she doesn’t return to pick them up. This is the catalyst for him looking back through the years and considering the decline of his marriage.


Toby has newly discovered the dating world with the help of some apps. He meets various women on these apps who are from his home of New York and they often send him racy texts which precipitate sexting, phone sex and sex-fueled meetings. There isn't much description of the sex, so don't be concerned it's graphic. He’s flabbergasted that such a world existed that he had no clue about and enters into it wholeheartedly. It proves difficult for him to meet up with these various women as he’s the sole caretaker of his children, seeing as his wife hasn’t taken them back, but he works around this. People commented that the novel was funny, but to be honest I didn’t find this.


As well as Toby, there are frequent appearances from 40-somethings who are, more often than not, in the grip of a mid-life crisis. I must say I found myself jarred and confused at some of the changes in the perspective and this took me out of the narrative. There were astute observations about the life of this portion of society on virtually every page. These observations also considered marriage and things like the morality of one’s life choices.


Essentially this was a character-driven novel. The plot, Rachel going missing, was secondary to the examination of the lives of those in amongst the pages. I didn’t feel overly sympathetic towards any one character, given that none of the issues considered affect me, however I really disliked Rachel after I’d read Toby’s assessment of her. Something happened towards the end of the book, though, that changed everything for me. I can’t explain this any further as this’d be a spoiler, but suffice as to say it came as a real surprise and upended what I’d read previously. That’s what I love about literature, it’s power to make me consider things from a totally new angle. This cemented Fleishman Is In Trouble as a definite 4 star read. The main thing that held it back from being a higher rated read was the distance I felt towards the issues considered.


The ending, while astute, was overly long and depressing. I was left feeling depleted with very little optimism. As I say, it was astute, just pretty depressing.


Overall this was an excellent read that I’d highly recommend to anyone who likes character-driven stories with a dash of mystery thrown in. It may be slightly more suitable to those of the age range depicted, though.

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text 2019-08-25 18:00
Bout Of Books Day #6 & #7
The Plays of Oscar Wilde: Salome- The Importance of Being Ernest, Lady Windermer's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband (Modern Library, Vol. 83) - Oscar Wilde

For day 6 of Bout-of-books we were told to post a review of something we’d read this week, but I decided instead to clump it together with today’s task instead. My review will be a short one as loads of other people have already said it much better than I ever could, but here’s what I’ve got.


I loved The Importance of Being Ernest so much that I decided to read all of Oscar Wilde’s 9 plays, by today no less, but I’ll get to that later. The play is about mistaken identities and all-the-while pokes fun at the Victorian middle classes.


I enjoyed it from the start, no more than when Lady Bracknell enters the stage. In the audio-version I listened too this part was played by Judi Dench and she was a great representation of the rigidness and immovability of the Victorian middle-classes. She objects to the protagonist, Ernest, marrying her daughter as his history and lineage aren’t in keeping with what she expects.


The real fun begins when Ernest returns to his country home and his friend Algernon turns up and assumes the identity of his brother. This part was ingenious and I had much fun listening to it.


I’ve just read part of a fantastic review for it over on GR that expounds on what each portion represents and where it means to poke fun at Victorian life, so I would recommend you go there for a full dissemination. As it is, I could never do the play as much justice.


Today’s challenge, the final day or Bout-of-books is this:


Stretch Goal

It's the last day of the readathon, so today's challenge is to take a look at the goals you set for the week (if you have them) and decide a) how you can stretch yourself to complete them or b) how you can revise them so you can meet them. Because yes, you can revise your goals! If you didn't set goals for the week, set a small one for yourself today!


At the beginning of the read-a-thon I set myself the ambitious and (I now accept) ludicrous challenge of finishing *all* of the books I’m currently reading. I also thought I’d try and read all 9 of Wilde’s play’s, as well! I had to adapt this hugely! I decided to spend today reading with the goal of finishing *1* book and I’m pleased to say I managed that. I finished Fleishman Is In Trouble and I’m happy I did. I read 1 more of Wilde's play's (a far cry from all 9!), but plan to read another now. I’ve also been beta-reading a novel for someone in the US this week and read roughly half of it, so I definitely read more this week than normal. I’d call that a success. I’m really glad I participated and will do so again.


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