Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: A Snarky, “very New York City” Novel

September 19, 2019 Fiction 13

Fleishman is in TroubleFiction – Literary
Released June 18, 2019
384 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it…if you like snark.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Random House)

Headline

I loved the snarky writing, the male perspective on divorce, and the surprising feminist undercurrent of this “very New York City” novel that’s garnering mixed reviews.

Plot Summary

When Toby (a doctor) and his high-powered wife, Rachel, separate, Toby revels in newfound attention from women until Rachel disappears, leaving him to juggle his job with being the primary caregiver to their two children.

Why I Read It

I’d been hearing mixed reviews about this book, but Annie Jones saying she really liked it (and that the writing was snarky) finally got me to pick it up.

Major Themes

Divorce, marriage, dealing with your insecurities, women’s vs. men’s life experience

What I Loved

  • The first part of Fleishman is in Trouble feels like a divorcée version of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. (my review), another spot-on book about dating in NYC from the male perspective. Based on the divorced males’ experience that I know, Toby having women fall all over him seems fairly accurate.
  • Toby was never the guy getting all the attention (he’s super short) and, the unexpected attention he receives after his separation turns him into a bit of a Ronald Miller (from Can’t Buy Me Love). He doesn’t quite know how to handle all this newfound attention.
  • The story not only explores the affects of separation / divorce, but also explores the breakdown of a marriage from the husband and wife’s perspective, a marriage where the wife has a bigger career than the husband, and stay-at-home motherhood.
  • This is a “very New York City” book, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on your experience with NYC. I lived there for 10 years, so I appreciated all the NYC eccentricities. For example, being a doctor is not viewed as a financially lucrative career in some NYC circles and Toby encounters this from the parents at his children’s school and from Rachel’s colleagues.
  • The writing is snarky and witty, which I love. And, there is lots of self-deprecating humor from Toby about his insecurities. I should warn you, though…this book is explicit about sex.

More than that, a person shouldn’t be made horny when he felt like garbage. The intersection of horniness and low self-esteem seemed reserved squarely for porn consumption.

  • The narrator of this story is a female childhood friend of Toby’s. I may be overthinking this, but in the second half of the book she does / says something that seemed to me like a metaphor for what Taffy Brodesser-Akner was trying to accomplish with Fleishman is in Trouble. She quits her job at a men’s magazine as the token journalist providing the “women’s perspective” and says the lines below. So, I wondered…is Brodesser-Akner telling the story of a marriage where the gender roles are somewhat reversed in order to get across to the world the plight of women in divorce (put sticking a man in the woman’s traditional position to get the world to pay attention)? If this was intentional…kudos to Taffy Brodesser-Akner!

That was what I knew for sure, that this was the only way to get someone to listen to a woman—to tell her story through a man; Trojan horse yourself into a man, and people would give a shit about you.

  • So, this book has an unexpected feminist angle and I love that.
  • It would make a fantastic book club pick and is one of the underrated gems of the year in my opinion.

What I Didn’t Like

  • There’s a few too many rambling tangents.
  • The ending felt overly drawn out.

A Defining Quote

And yes, if you believe his version, she was a vile kind of ex-wife (all ex-wives are vile, to hear it), but she was also someone who had been driven crazy. Maybe it was the insult of childbirth. Maybe it was the overwhelming unfairness of what happens to a woman’s status and body and position in the culture once she’s a mother. All those things can drive you crazy if you’re a smart person. If you are a smart woman, you cannot stand by and remain sane once you fully understand, as a smart person does, the constraints of this world on a woman.

Good for People Who Like…

Snarky writing, dark humor, New York City books.

Other Books You May Like

Another book about dating in New York City from the man’s perspective, written by a woman:
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (My Review)

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Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

 

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13 Responses to “Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: A Snarky, “very New York City” Novel”

  1. Susie | Novel Visits

    Maybe I just didn’t give this book enough time before quitting on it. Your review makes me think I should have liked it, but I felt no affinity for Toby, so just didn’t care what he was going for and the constant attention from women I also found annoying. This all probably has to do with having gone through a difficult divorce myself, and so just not really wanting to sympathize with a man’s plight!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I can totally understand that you’d have a different perspective and get why you wouldn’t really want to hear about it. BUT – I do think you’d love the way the author kind of flips gender roles on their heads in the second half.

  2. Sarah (bookedinadvance)

    I really loved this one. I’ve loved Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s profile in NYT, and love her voice. I agree with you, I think it was intentional that the author told this particular story this particular way. It bothered me a little at first, how similar Libby & Taffy are, but the more I sat with the book, the more I loved it. I’m so glad you liked this one!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I haven’t read the profile, but now I need to! I figured Libby could reflect the author, but never knew for sure and didn’t know about actual similarities in their lives.

  3. Deb

    I was awaiting your review to add to my list. As someone with NY in my history too, I am always game for the NYC book setting, and this sounds fun.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yes – as I was reading, I knew the writing wasn’t going to be for everyone. REALLY snarky and explicit.

  4. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I’ve not seen any of the other reviews on this one and since they’re mixed, perhaps I should check them out. But based on your review, it sounds really awesome! I like books that are very NYC and the feminist message from a book with a male protagonist intrigues me 🙂

  5. Debi Morton

    I appreciate your review on this one so I could decide not to read it. All the other reviews I’ve read have talked about a man’s “sexual reawakening” and other such terms, but none but your came out and just bluntly said it is sexually explicit. As I do not like open-door, I’ll pass on this one, fun as it sounds.

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