January 12

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner is one of the hit books of 2019 in the USA.  It was released in June with hit reviews and by September, there was a 10-party bidding war for TV rights.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner is best known in the USA as a writer for GQ Magazine and the New York Times and this is her debut novel. I read that she has already written her next one, so she is clearly on a roll.

In a nutsell, Fleishman is in Trouble is a story about marriage and divorce told from two sides in two parts.  The 40 something year old doctor husband (Toby Fleishman) goes first and is very much set up as the good guy.  He is looking after their two kids when his wife (Rachel Fleishman) goes to a yoga retreat and doesn’t come back….insert downward dog joke here. That makes him the first Fleishman in Trouble.

Later in the book, we hear from Rachel, aka the other Fleishman in Trouble.

In many ways, there’s nothing original about a book on divorce told in two parts, but where this novel feels new, and maybe a little sad, is that it poses the question whether it is ever possible to shake the different expectations men and women have, regardless of what role they play in a marriage and its disintegration. By the end, I felt like we were all in Trouble.

With a Jewish, Manhattan style, this book is choc a bloc with bagels, dating apps, sexting, yoga studios, doormen, dietary habits and disillusioned 40 year olds.  That granular detail underscores big themes of gender, ambition and equality. There is a healthy line up of side characters and stories, including part narration from a friend of the husband, so it doesn’t surprise me one bit that it is being adopted for the small screen.  If it all comes together, the way I hope, it will be a mash up of Marriage Story, and Sex and the City, with a touch of Seinfield.

I couldn’t complete this review without a mention of one of the little side stories I really liked. One of Toby’s patients is misdiagnosed as having depression when in actual fact, she has a rare liver condition, called Wilson’s disease. This disease is only detectable by close inspection of a patient’s eyes.  It’s true – I looked it up.  To me, that little sub-plot serves as a very sweet metaphor for the problems underlying relationships and how the truth of a situation can be so easily missed.

Fleishman is in Trouble strikes me as a less literary update of The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen or Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.  It’s not going to be my favourite book of the year, but the TV show could well be.

And that’s my 2 cents worth.