Aware that Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s interviews with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jonathan Franzen are so incisive, well-written and engaging that they’ve become famous in themselves, and seeing the New York Times mention this as a notable upcoming book and then reading a mention of her upcoming novel in one of her own articles, about Thirtysomething, I was intrigued enough to buy Fleishman Is in Trouble.
And I’m glad. I found, from the start, the narrative was completely engaging and compelling with truths and observations about contemporary life that feel very now, whether it’s internet dating, relationships, raising kids or the nostalgia of the middle-aged (of which I am one). This is in spite of the fact that the premise of the story – a divorcing nephrologist, newly discovering dating apps, and suddenly left with full custody of his kids when his ex-wife disappears – didn’t necessarily seem like something I’d be interested in.
So, I was loving it for the observations and the truths and then, more than halfway in, something very interesting happens with the narration, a meta-intrusion, unabashedly autobiographical, that for me made the book even more interesting and more punchy. I had been wondering why such a talented writer would have, in her first novel, a male hero, and the narrator basically says why in a way that brings really interesting issues to the forefront about gender and power and voice and more, and the narrative barrels towards an open and satisfying ending and I was left impressed, pleased, engaged.