Lots of Sex, Lots of Humor, Lots of Important Questions
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Fleishman is in Trouble is the story of Toby and Rachel Fleishman. They are a couple in their early forties who are going through an acrimonious divorce. Supposedly, the couple has shared custody of their two children but that schedule goes awry in the opening pages as Rachel sneaks into Toby’s apartment in the middle of the night, drops the kids off, and then vanishes. The author does a good job of being inside of Toby’s head. Thus, we know he is enraged with Rachel for many reasons. This vanishing act is just another item added to his long list of grievances. It disturbed me that it took almost half the book for Toby to even consider that Rachel might be in some sort of trouble and that she might need his help. I had been worrying about her for a long time at that point.
I also worried about Toby. He had never been sexually popular — or even popular — before marriage. He was monogamous during marriage. And now, newly single, he was experiencing a great popularity via various dating/sex apps. Once he went off — deliriously — to meet a woman at her apartment. As she hauled him in the door and quickly stripped him down for sex, he opened one eye long enough to be sure it was not a gang of men conspiring to rob him or a teenage boy playing a joke on him. That’s exactly what I had worried about! Who knew the term safe sex had this additional nuance? By the way, perhaps I am confessing to a lack of experience here, but I was impressed by the number of sexual situations this author could conjure.
The humor is also impressive in the book. I especially loved Toby’s weight obsession. I chuckled at the restaurant scene where he ordered grilled chicken with a beet salad but asked the waitress to hold the goat cheese, the dressing, and the candied walnuts, leaving only the beets. I scratched my head, though. Isn’t it usually the woman playing the calorie conscious role?
As it turns out, there is a lot of flip/flopping of roles in the book. Here’s the main one: Though Toby is a capable and respected doctor at a local hospital, Rachel’s career outshines his. She is a high-powered talent agent who brings in the big bucks and supports the family’s wealthy lifestyle. It takes a long time for the author to help us understand this is the crux of the story. We are here to figure out if a couple can handle this scenario. Knowing the question, we can then review all of Toby’s complaints in a fascinating new light. While the author gets a bit heavy handed in sermonizing on this topic, it’s a question worthy of discussion and every page in the novel was needed to drive her points home.
Nice job, Taffy Brodesser-Akner!
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