Categories: Contemporary Fiction
Toby Fleishman is divorcing at forty-one, and finds himself suddenly addicted to the easy sex that dating apps provide for a man like him, despite the short height he’s always been insecure about, despite his age and the fact that he has children. When he starts finally enjoying the life as a single man after a miserable and loveless marriage, his ex-wife suddenly disappears, and he has the children over at his place for longer than he expected, and no idea where his ex might be. Is she alive, is she avoiding him, is she ok? As he tries to find her and juggle his job, the children and dating, he’s forced to face some truths about his marriage he might have been ignoring for years.
Fleishman is in Trouble is the very definition of heteropessimism – I’ve read the term in an article a few days ago, and it describes this book so well. This book made me feel very sorry for everyone who ever married (in that sense it reminded me a bit of Liane Moriarty’s books).
I detested Toby, which I suppose is the point. He starts off sympathetic enough and you do feel sorry for him, but gosh by the end I wanted to divorce him myself. The author does a great job at creating unlikable characters that you can relate to and care about (not just Toby, but also Rachel, the ex-wife, and the narrator were quite unlikable to me), but at the same time I think the book would have had a bigger impact if it hadn’t gone on for so long. 373 pages don’t seem like much, but my edition was rather large, and it felt definitely like more than that. After page 250 or so I was fed up with all the characters and just wanted to get to the point – it does feel like being hammered in the head a little too much with all the ways Toby was frustrated and angry, and also horny, and all Rachel and the ways the narrator Libby suffer from their marriages and are forced to diminish themselves for society.
Apart from that, this is such a witty book! Toby is completely unable to see anything that is happening around him, except when it is about him, and it’s exasperating but also entertaining. I think this book was smart, with acidic humor, and at times it was an addictive read. It has its moments of brilliancy, but by the end I was a bit exhausted by it. I’d definitely read future books by the author, though! If you love reading about marriages breaking apart and people misunderstanding each other (I know I do), this might be a really interesting read for you.