Saturday, July 28, 2007

How to Talk to a Widower

Elsewhere I've critiqued two of Jonathan Tropper's earlier novels, The Book of Joe and Everything Changes. Favorably. Tropper is one of the few US lad-kit writers with a flair for it, as evident by Tobey Maguire signing on to to EC in a movie form sometime soon at a theater near you. Since I wrote that review, I hunted down Tropper's first published novel, Plan B, the tender story of long-time friends doing an intervention by kidnapping their now movie star friend and holding him hostage while hilarity and romance ensue. It's actually good.

So I was looking forward to his finishing his latest, How to Talk to a Widower, which also has movie written all over it. Read it in half a day, not disappointed at all. By now, Tropper's books all have familiar elements that resonate despite the familiarity--adrift young man trying to grapple with the crap reality is dealing, women you'd fall for (even the ones thrown away), family issues with a cast of irregular characters, effective and usually unexpected violence--covered generously with both melancholy and in the end uncertain hope along with great dialogue and laugh-out-loud situations.

You may not see how you'd laugh out loud about a story of a guy who fell hopelessly for a vibrant, talented, and of course beautiful woman 11 years older who dies (not a spoiler--did you read the title???) and leaves him in effect with her teenage son, but you do. As usual, there's the colorful family, as mentioned, and enough moral vacillation and tussling with self-absorption by most concerned to make you think for a while. Of course, there's the predictable "back in the dating pool" run of bad blind dates, but Tropper plays them well, delivering most as a montage and making the hero one himself in one of the scenes that will play funniest in the movie.

Tropper's not Shakespeare or even Richard Russo, but he's talented, readable, and memorable. Most of all, when you're done, you immediately start getting impatient for his next one. According to an interview I read, it's supposed to be about divorce, which he should make touching and hilarious. Hurry up and get that thing finished, Tropper.

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