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Fleishman Is in Trouble Damn I wanted to like this novel Brodesser Akner is one of our greatest magazine feature writers and the reviews—by people I trust—have been near unanimous raves But I kind of hated itThere are many many sharp observations here about men women marriage divorce The prose is extremely uotable though nowhere near as funny as some readers have suggested the raunchy dating app material is mostly just sad But the problem for me isn’t that literally every adult character except for the largely invisible narrator is unsympathetic—it’s the lack of universality in both the story and the relationship insights Brodesser Akner’s characters all come from a narrow slice of wealthy social climbing NYNJ life; these menwomenmarriagedivorce problems are very much Upper West Side menwomenmarriagedivorce problems And everyone here seems stuck Characters find themselves in time money crunches feeling neglected resentful of spouses friends co workers but those crunches are the product of choices—choices that are neither inevitable nor permanent It’s irritating that none of the characters seems to recognize that there are alternative ways of living communicating parenting Two thirds of the way through the novel I was dreading a radical eleventh hour perspective shift à la Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies and sure enough it arrives and speeds through an alternate view of the story we’ve just read intended to unsettle everything we thought with blocks of mostly undigested essay text on relationships—again insightful stuff but not necessarily relevant Toby and Rachel’s marriage is so unusual dysfunctional awful that viewing it from different angles yields limited returns #notallmen #notallwomen #notallmarriages #notalldivorces This witty crude comictragic contemporary story ‘mostly’ worked for me A little shorter would have worked better a little less repetitiveness even betterBUTI LIKED IT I REALLY LIKED ITTruth was seeping through the seams while exploring marriage divorce friendships dating sexing colleagues children siblings money narcissism assholes annoyances anger selfishness entitlement play dates yoga clothes beef lo mein women of a certain age ramblings points of view from several characters communication challenges all in the context of being a touchy controversial novelI imagine readers thoughts are all over the place from disappointment to greatness and everything in between Personally I found this book to be better than my expectations I saw very low reviews come out the door fast So I wasn’t expecting muchFor me it provokesself reflectionself depreciation and selfdefectionSome of the best parts are near the end twisting my ‘thinking’ and purpose for the first half of the book Life is shortLife is validating affirmingLife lacks forgiveness Life is annoying infuriating Life is disorienting Life is flawed Life is loveModern life is complex with complicated dynamicsTaffy Brodesser Akner gives us a satire of the bare interior of marriage divorce and all the orgasms of life that come with it It’s crazy it’s light dark it’s funny it’s sadNot to everyone’s tastebut it fit mine I enjoyed this fiction catastrophe Flawed flawed and flawed“Fleishman is in Trouble” gives us Toby Fleishman middle age a short 5’5” tall Jewish guyI’ve heard short Jewish guy jokes much all my life I have a couple of very smart upper middle class short Jewish guy friends They do make me laughso at times I found Toby Fleishman fairly relatableOther times just obnoxiously annoyingSet in Manhattan the Hamptons and Israel “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 drop their two children off at his place and simply not return He had been working so hard to find euilibrium in his single life” Toby tries to figure out where Rachel went while balancing work at the hospital his kids and his new sexual popularityHe also needs to seriously examine what went wrong in his marriage The dialogue is often crass with it’s non stop sexual exploits Yet it’s shrewdness and insightful wittiness was thought provoking I didn’t find this novel ‘ha ha’ hilarious but I did laugh I rolled my eyes on occasionbut I was very surprised when from time to time gut truthful sentences bounced off the page “He couldn’t see his own reflection in the mirror any”As an aging past middle age womanI’m not so sure I can see my reflection in the mirror any either Instead I reflect inward 45 for the entertaining inventive psychologically intriguing worthy insightful look at petty cruelties a look at ‘me’ colliding with social changes Believe the hype “Fleishman Is in Trouble” is even better than we were promised Taffy Brodesser Akner a New York Times Magazine writer brings to her first novel the currency of a hot dating app and the wisdom of a Greek tragedy The result is a feminist jeremiad nested inside a brilliant comic novel — a book that makes you laugh so hard you don’t notice till later that your eyebrows have been singed offAs the story opens life sounds like an erotic carnival for Toby Fleishman A New York doctor newly separated from his wife Toby has arrived at the age of 41 to discover a city suddenly flush with women who want him Now “His phone was aglow from sunup to sundown” the narrator writes with texts that contained “underboob and sideboob and just straight up boob and all the parts of a woman he never dared dream he would encounter” After enduring a chronically nerdy adolescence and a tense 14 year marriage Toby is dazzled by this sexual bounty “Could it be” he wonders “that he wasn’t as To read the rest of this review go to The Washington Posthttpswwwwashingtonpostcomentert Fleishman is in Trouble is the kind of book that makes a mockery of the 5 star rating system Here is a novel that is eual parts highly relatable and alienating; enjoyable and aggravating and great bookclub fodder discuss for hours This book wants you to sympathize with millionaire New Yorkers people whose lifestyle is totally out of reach for most and to see them as people with feelings and real struggles but not with the even wealthier New Yorkers who it casts as villains and over privileged jerks It tries so hard to subvert narratives that it ends up doubling back on itself “That was what I knew for sure that this was the only way to get someone to listen to a woman—to tell her story through a man; Trojan horse yourself into a man and people would give a shit about you”So this novel is a Trojan horse ostensibly about the recently separated Toby Fleishman and his adventures in dating but really about his ball busting wife Rachel in absentia and his old friend Libby who functions as both a preternaturally omniscient Nick Carraway type narrator and as an author stand in Cleverly Toby is cast in the traditionally feminine role of being the secondary earner in his marriage despite his six figure hepatologist’s salary which pales in comparison to Rachel’s career as a celebrity agent Meanwhile Rachel’s narrative tackles that old chestnut ‘women are expected to parent like they don’t have a job and work like they don’t have kids’ Slightly undermining all this is the enormous resources the pair have to hire nannies assistants and the like Much of their financial and indeed emotional strain is self inflicted from a desire to climb the ladder and keep up appearances Still Brodesser Akner does a good job of making us careThe story is incredibly layered with almost every plot point taking on a permutation of gender ineuality the one woman “off off off off off Broadway” show that gives Rachel her big break as an agent; Toby’s dating app sexting escapades; his female patient’s previously overlooked medical condition; an incident involving Rachel Toby’s tween daughter at sleepaway camp; and The layers—each one potent and endlessly discussable in its own right—are so crammed in together there’s no space for anything to breathe and the novel densifies under their weightIt’s also kind of repetitious making the same contentions in slightly different flavours over and over Libby has a long diatribe towards the end which while very much on point seems like a Brodesser Akner essay on gender roles shoehorned in there just to bludgeon the reader one last timeThe Trojan horse manoeuvre is inspired but it fails in execution because 80% of the novel is spent describing the horse ie Toby’s story The horse is not the point I was rather bored by the horse and wanted much much of Rachel Maybe inadvertently the Trojan horse here is not a man’s story but rich people’s stories Imagine a novel skewering gender roles marriage and midlife but it’s about a divorced parent on the poverty line relying on welfare and child support payments that never ever arrive working around the clock to provide for their children When that character experiences a breakdown disappears for weeks cutting off all contact with their own kids would readers sympathise with them? Would such a novel even get published? Could it ever be a smash hit like Fleishman is in Trouble?If the measure of a book is how much you want to talk about it when you’re done this would be an easy 5 stars If it’s how much you enjoy the ride maybe 2? Split the difference then Fleishman is in Trouble gets 35 stars from me Fleishman is in Trouble is a incisive sharply observed and humorous novel that examines the nature and anatomy of a American marriage family divorce and identity at the privileged end of the social and economic spectrum set in New York The Jewish middle aged hepatologist Toby Fleishman and his wife Rachel are getting divorced retaining joint custody of their children 11 year old Hannah and 7 year old Solly Whilst this is an entertaining read there are aspects that grate and irritate it is overly repeating and in some of the portrayed sex life of Toby A surprised Toby now discovers he is a much desired man wanted by many women which is in sharp contrast to his younger days when disappointment and rejection were his lot Nowadays the modern world of online dating and apps have him plunging in enthusiastically keen to expand his sexual experiencesHis ambitious wife Rachel was the primary bread winner in their marriage with her successful talent agency and her efforts to push him to be eually go getting were rebuffed by him Toby's world shifts considerably when Rachel unexpectedly disappears leaving him with the children to look after he becomes increasingly frustrated as he is unable to locate the elusive Rachel Left with all the responsibilities of parenting in the modern age of mobile phones and problematic social media Toby's professional career begins to suffer Toby is to find that his thoughts and beliefs regarding his marriage are not necessarily so In a narrative related by Toby's old friend Libby a former magazine features writer herself married with a daughter the author is partially successful in her use of the literary 'trojan horse' device to lay bare the unacknowledged realities that women face in society through role reversal the issue is that there is an insufficient focus on the womenWe become privy to Rachel's perspective on her marriage and Libby's inner thoughts and feelings in the exploration and analysis of gender differences amidst the differing social and cultural attitudes and expectations when it comes to women in comparison to men This is a satirical multilayered read on the complexities of life the challenges of marriage the ineualities parenting the differing experiences of ageing faced by men and women middle aged angst identity and the self inflicted further pressures placed within marriages parenting and family I found this a particularly thought provoking reading when it comes to looking at and evaluating the concept of marriage in our complicated modern contemporary realities Many thanks to Headline for an ARC Find all of my reviews at makes a book literary fiction? Dense writing? Bogged down in unnecessary details? Filled with unlikeable people? Repetitive? Too many pages for the subject matter being tackled? Pretention? An author who has a day job at the New Yorker? Beat you over the head super preachy but trying to be cleverly hidden social commentary? A narrator who feels like an afterthought the majority of the time and who jumps the train off the track by choosing to begin telling her story at some point rather than the one she is supposed to be telling? If so this checks all the boxes It also had me like No point in attempting a review I’m uite sure I was too stupid to “get” this book so I’ll save the trolls some typing I didn’t like the characters– I didn’t like the writing – I didn’t like the message or rather the way the message was delivered I didn’t like one thing about it and that’s my opinion End of story Recently separated Toby Fleishman is suddenly somehow and at age forty one short as ever surrounded by women who want him women who are self actualized women who are smart and interesting women who don't mind his height women who are eager to take him for a test drive with just the swipe of an app Toby doesn't mind being used in this way; it's a welcome change from the thirteen years he spent as a married man the thirteen years of emotional neglect and contempt he's just endured Anthropologically speaking it's like nothing he ever experienced before particularly back in the 1990s when he first began dating and became used to swimming in the murky waters of rejectionBut Toby's new life liver specialist by day kids every other weekend rabid somewhat anonymous sex at night is interrupted when his ex wife suddenly disappears Either on a vision uest or a nervous breakdown Toby doesn't know she won't answer his texts or callsIs Toby's ex just angry like always Is she punishing him yet again for not being the bread winner she was As he desperately searches for her while juggling his job and parenting their two unraveling children Toby is forced to reckon with the real reasons his marriage fell apart and to ask if the story he has been telling himself all this time is true Man there's a lot of sex in this book It feels like it's on every page I wasn't offended by it it just bored me If Toby Fleishman is not scrolling through revealing pics over horny older women on a dating app he's thinking about the last time he banged his horrible ex wife or when he might bang her next His friends are no different Libby is supposed to be the sensible voice of reason but she's still thinking about the affair she had with her first editor And Seth is a total ladies man just for some variation I was almost relieved when we got to a scene with Toby's kids Surely they'll have something else going in their lives I thought to myself Nope Eight year old Solly gets busted for looking up girl bagina on the family computerDo people really think about sex this much? All day every day? Sure it crosses my mind every now and then but I'm mostly thinking about whether my football team will win the next game or the amazing sandwich I had for lunch And that's not the only repetitive aspect of the narrative if I had to read one reference to Toby's heightI suppose the book has some interesting things to say about marriage and the fact that there are two sides to every story But I couldn't really bring myself to care about any of the self absorbed characters and their first world problems I suppose I just expected from one of the most hyped novels of the year I’m not saying stories about the marital and financial angst of people who make well over six figures and choose voluntarily to live in New York are by nature dull and exhausting but wow this one was In this novel it seems every unhappy family is in fact unhappy in the exact same way and nothing about Taffy Akner’s storytelling which is far suited to the exposition friendly profiles that made her famous offers enough insight to make it worth suffering through these characters’ misery and self pity And did we need to spend 80% of this novel with a transparently awful man to get to the book’s actual point that – surprise what a twist –everything is worse for women? This review is probably too harsh and salty so I apologize for being so dismissive – probably a sign that I should’ve just DNF’ed this one way back at the 20 page mark So much to think about here This is a book of many layers a book that keeps on giving Brodesser Akner has so many astute observations about marriage and being a woman particularly interesting is her thesis that a story must be told through the perspective of a man to be taken seriously Then she uses her skills as a writer to do just that beginning her tale through Toby a man's eyes who is going through a divorce and using a constellation of characters around Toby to fill in the details It's very clever The way she reverses roles and without giving away the ending makes her point very clear I initially struggled with the novel because I found many of her characters unlikeable They are smart witty and sometimes wise but then they would treat other people poorly such as their devoted nanny The main characters are scornful and derisive they pass judgment on everyone their life partners the preppy kid the sad non working mother For example Rachel says The only thing offensive than Miriam not working was Miriam thinking she did work But Miriam would never know true success She would never know achievement She would never know what it was like to build something and hold it in your hands There is so much judgement in that sentence We are all fallible we all make mistakes The strange dichotomy is that these characters seem so frustrated with their own mortality and yet are so judgemental of everyone else's sloppy imperfect lives I found them in many ways to be petty with a hyper focus on money status and external success After I finished the book I went to bed a bit disturbed I woke up thinking these characters perhaps lacked an internal life It was uite a contrast after just finishing four Austen books where inner life is held up so highly in her careful handsBut ultimately I had a lot of sympathy for the mother in this book She is a highly intelligent woman who on the surface appears to have it all A very wise octogenarian once told me You can have it all but not at the same time I've often reflected on this comment The mother in this book is trying to do just that for her it's having a big job and being the boss lots of yoga being involved with her children lives and activities and vast social commitments Personally I've found it impossible to do many things well at the same time Something is always breaking down Another wise octogenarian I know I love to talk to people in their 80s once told me It's no problem to have a big job and an involved relationship with your children but then you must have no social life I have also pondered that comment over the years Anyways at this moment during a pandemic we are all suffering from a new normal I've seen many women posting in social media about how this current pandemic is difficult for them All the things they used to outsource are now on their shoulders while they still have to continue their old jobs and did we mention homeschooling? When you try to do everything at once how can you do it all well? Time is finite Women and men are forced to make difficult choices I'm glad that Brodesser Akner has contributed so thoughtfully to this debate This book is a great one for starting up important conversations

  • Hardcover
  • 373 pages
  • Fleishman Is in Trouble
  • Taffy Brodesser Akner
  • English
  • 19 June 2015
  • 9780525510871

About the Author: Taffy Brodesser Akner

Taffy Brodesser Akner is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine Prior to that her work appeared in G ESPN the Magazine Matter Details Texas Monthly Outside Self Cosmopolitan and many other publications Fleishman Is In Trouble is her first novel