Now what I am about to say may shock some of my more delicate readers but come on, this is 2013. Despite my female status I have dabbled in lad-lit...and I liked it. So when the kind folks at Orion offered to send me a copy of the new Jonathan Tropper novel to read, I thought it sounded like something in that Nick Hornby-esque vein that I might enjoy.
Silver was one of those men who had it all. A successful career as a musician complete with an enviable rock-and-roll lifestyle, a gorgeous wife and a beautiful little girl. But a few bad decisions down the line and he finds himself alone in middle age sharing a sad apartment block with a group of other divorced men. He pays his alimony with what little he makes from playing his one hit single at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Just when he thinks his life can't get any more deadbeat, Silver is hit with a triple whammy of disasters: first, his ex-wife announces that she is to remarry a successful heart surgeon. Secondly, his teenage daughter drops the bombshell that she's pregnant. And worst of all, he is diagnosed with a medical condition meaning that he could drop dead at any moment unless he makes the decision to undergo a risky operation. So nope, Lady Luck is certainly not being friendly to Silver.
The significant moral of this story is the importance of seizing the day, enjoying life while you can and not taking the good things for granted. Ordinarily this prospect would make me feel mildly nauseous at the very least, but the real strength of Tropper's writing is that he delivers this message without coming across as preachy or overly sentimental. There are some quite weighty issues tackled within these pages - mortality, spirituality, unwanted/teenage pregnancy. While I never found it laugh-out-loud funny, there is a certain wry humour throughout that stops it from becoming too depressing.
While it's true that there is something quite typically blokey/laddish about Silver and his attitude to life, I think this is a book that anybody could enjoy. That's mainly thanks to the lifelike characters and their very human flaws. I loved the relationship between Silver and the other divorcees living in his apartment block, the way in which they bickered and took the mickey out of each other but showed how much they cared in subtle ways. It was such a realistic portrayal of male friendships. The family dynamics were also very convincing with sparky and engaging dialogue. I don't think there was any character in the book that I didn't like.
If you think this might be something you'd enjoy there's no need to simply take my word for it - bloggers have been and will be sharing their thoughts on One Last Thing Before I Go all week as part of a blog tour. You can find an interview with Jonathan Tropper here in which he shares some of the inspiration behind the characters and the challenges he faced when writing the novel. To read an extract you can visit yesterday's stop, which was from Lucy at Literary Relish. And if you're still not convinced, our blog tour continues tomorrow at The Book Boy!