Doug Parker lives in the suburbs. He would never have chosen to be there but it was an act of love to have moved into his new wife's house. Doug found his way in a friendly relationship with her adolescent son. Only two years into the marriage the wife is killed in a plane crash. Doug is stranded and alone in the `burbs filled with grief. However, alone does not mean lacking in attention from others. Not really what he wanted. His parents will never understand him, nor do they try but they want him to care about what they think and what they want. His stepson is working on becoming a troubled kid. He wants Doug to care and to act on his behalf. The suburb housewives take turns bringing over meals and at least one signals that more than that is available. Doug's very popular newspaper column on grieving brings him heaps of attention from women who think he's adorable. He can hardly help himself when more than just attention is ready and waiting.
The novel is thematically committed to love. There are lots of opportunities to love. The much in need stepson was in his face. The ridiculous parents were another opportunity to love. Many of us have ridiculous relatives who are a challenge. His pregnant twin sister's love of her brother is as strongly demonstrative as the stepson's cry for help.
The suburbs, an emotional wasteland where individuals are not sure of why they should care about others, are a very fitting background. The question is whether Doug will find his way: will he commit to life and love and do so more maturely than he's been known to do?
The novel like the main character has a slow start. The trueness of the male voice is very much appreciated. The consistent dry humor is a great fit for some and less so for others. Either way, female readers have a good chance of falling for Doug Parker, a young man you'll just want to gather up in your arms and hug.
Anything Else: Jonathan Tropper teaches writing at Manhattanville College. How to Talk to a Widower was optioned by Paramount Pictures and Everything Changes and The Book of Joe are also in development as feature films.
"Beautifully crafted", "Fantastically funny." "Compulsively readable." Jonathan Tropper has earned wild acclaim—-and comparisons to Nick Hornby and Tom Perrotta—for his biting humor and insightful portrayals of families in crisis and men behaving badly. Now the acclaimed author of The Book of Joe and Everything Changes tackles love, lust, and lost in the suburbs—in a stunning novel that is by turns heartfelt and riotously funny. Doug Parker is a widower at age twenty-nine, and in his quiet suburban town, that makes him something of a celebrity—the object of sympathy, curiosity, and, in some cases, unbridled desire. But Doug has other things on his mind. First there's his sixteen year-old stepson, Russ: a once-sweet kid who now is getting into increasingly serious trouble on a daily basis. Then there are Doug's sisters: his bossy twin, Clair, who's just left he husband and moved in with Doug, determined to rouse him from his Grieving stupor. And Debbie, who's engaged to Doug's ex-best friend and manically determined to pull off the perfect wedding at any cost. Soon Doug's entire nuclear family is in his face. And when he starts dipping his toes into the shark-infested waters of the second-time around dating scene, it isn't long before his new life is spinning hopelessly out of control, cutting a harrowing and often hilarious swath of sexual missteps and escalating chaos across the suburban landscape.