Dear Matthew Norman,
You’ve written a fantastic, entertaining book about a great character. The picture of you on the back is very attractive and I’ve had a great track record with men from Omaha. Why don’t you forget your wife and kids and come here to Philadelphia and be mine? I’m single and old enough that I’m not really a twentysomething harlot. Also: I have big boobs.
Ugh, this book is practically perfect. It’s everything I wanted This is Where I Leave You
to be: funny without being wacky or vulgar, heartwarming without being sappy, easy without being mindless. It’s just...great.
Tom Violet doesn’t have a bad life, but it’s certainly not what he wanted for himself. He hates his job as a copywriter for a heartless corporation whose practical applications are murky in that heartless corporation kind of way. He’s embattled with a nemesis who embodies everything he hates about corporate America, he’s got a crush on his coworker that he knows is inappropriate, his penis isn’t working, and his wife is drifting away from him. His father and
stepfather are knocking at his door with their own romantic troubles. That father, by the way, just won the Pulitzer Prize while Tom’s own ambitions of becoming a legitimate writer have been shoved into a drawer along with his manuscript.
Tom decides he’s going to Take Action, and that’s exactly what he does. He’s not a flawless man and some of his Actions are less than moral, but you have to feel for this man. His intentions are good and he’s not out to change the world, just the way he fits into it. Tom is such a fully realized character, multidimensional and honest, and Norman’s prose is witty, insightful, and incredibly consistent. The story here isn’t necessarily original or earth-moving, but that’s why I loved it. Tom is very much the Everyman and he reminds us that we have more control over the events in our lives than we’d like to admit.
I’m not a thirty-five year-old man, but – as an unsatisfied almost-copywriter for a heartless corporation whose purpose I barely understand – it was a message I needed to hear.