Recommendations are funny things. I’ve talked about this before, how more often than not, I steer clear, nervous of the unsolicited suggestion. I’m currently in a period of personal turmoil, as The Husband and I are splitting after nigh on twenty years and two children together. It’s a hard and unhappy time. Nothing in life can prepare you for just how miserable such a situation can be, particularly when you don’t see it coming. The things we love often become impossible and for me, my two major outlets, reading fiction and writing my blog, have somehow fallen victim. I struggle to find either the time or inclination to put eyes to novel or fingers keyboard.
Amidst this backdrop came a totally unsolicited recommendation from a friend. Ms F and I have known each other for years, but not well. We were once nominally part of the same book club, she never came to any meeting I attended and I left relatively rapidly. We’d met through a mother and baby exercise group, but it wasn’t until years later, as the parent of two ‘musical theater’ loving kids, that our paths finally crossed in a meaningful way. We’d never found the time to discuss books, but knew that the other was a kindred spirit, someone who could and would hide amongst the pages. Certainly she knew what was going on in my life when she recommended Fleishman Is In Trouble and although the book centers on divorce, somehow I found it oddly readable.
Toby Fleishman is a doctor, living in New York City. He is also the father of two children, whom he loves dearly. He and his wife Rachel have split and now custody is shared. The problem is that, in the early hours of one summer day, Rachel drops the children at Toby’s home and proceeds to vanish. This isn’t a murder mystery, she has simply not returned when he expected her to, leaving him to wonder exactly where she is. He tries to track her down via all the usual methods, but draws a blank. He knows that she’s okay, but she’s just not available to him or the kids. This absence of Rachel leads to a sort of unravelling of Toby, enhanced by the rekindling of friendships with his old college friends.
Fleishman Is In Trouble is a New York book and although I live a very long way from the East Coast, I like to believe that I understand both the city and the sensibility that goes with it. What I am slower to understand is the brainwashing that we have all been raised with, whereby the male narrative reigns supreme. There is an ancient quote that says, “I grow old, ever learning many things” and this book reminded me of that constantly. That everything I think I know, I really don’t. The beauty with Brodesser-Akner’s story is that I do learn, but very slowly. So often I wanted to call up The Husband and share with him the truths about marriage and divorce, the things we should learn or know, that we as a couple had somehow we missed.
Reading Fleishman Is in Trouble won’t make you a better person, but it might just make you one who understands human relationships in a different way.