this past weekend, i went home to see my family, and as jewish families do (see: trailer for the film below), we got into it at dinner one night. you know, guilt tripping, a little bit of crying, a little bit of yelling. we love each other dearly, but sometimes (again, see: trailer for the film below), we work through our issues by shouting at each other, or taking little digs at one another, or just plain crying at the dinner table. what can i say? it’s how i grew up, and it’s all i know. during our little session of somewhat-shouting-somewhat-crying-everyone-annoyed-and-a-little-bit-sad, my mother offered up this little gem of wisdom about my somewhat miserable childhood: sarah never had a lot of friends growing up! so she got lost in books instead.
and rather than defend myself, i just nodded, and agreed. because, well, it was true. i was an overly sensitive child prone to calling up my friends in first grade and telling them that they’d hurt my feelings by not sitting with me at the lunch table. and you know what? first graders don’t give two shits about hurting anyone’s feelings. they barely know what feelings are. and you know what else? if they wouldn’t sit with me at the lunch table, then they weren’t really my friends – but it took me a long time to figure that one out.
but i digress. the main point here is that as a child (and really, up until now, or, okay, still now, even as a grown woman), books were my escape. they gave me the friends i couldn’t find in the real world. they gave me the courage i didn’t have as a shy child who might as well have had doormat stamped across her forehead. they gave me the vocabulary that won me the third grade spelling bee, much to my male opponent’s chagrin. they gave me adventures i couldn’t very well take on my own in my bedroom. they gave me an imagination bigger than the one i was given, and most importantly, they taught me how to write.
they taught me that i wanted to write. it took me a long time to figure out who i was in the world (and if we’re being honest, i’m still figuring it out), but i have always, always, known that i wanted to write. one might think that as i grew more confident, and figured out how to pick up on social cues, and how not to get my heart stomped on, and how to go out and have fun, i would have left my books and my voracious reading habit behind. but one would be wrong. if anything, i read more now than i did as a kid. even in college, while everyone else complained that they had so much required reading they couldn’t bear to pick up a novel, i read. and now that i live in new york, and commute each and every day, i read even more. i read on my way to bar method in the mornings. i read while i walk down the street (annoying, i know). i read in the elevator, on the subway, on the bus. i read while i wait for the dentist to call me into the exam room. i read everywhere. generally, depending on what i’m reading, i go through about a book a week.
right now, though, i’m reading donna tartt’s the goldfinch and man, is it slow going.
one of my absolute favorite books i’ve read in the past few years is jonathan tropper’s this is where i leave you. it’s the story of a group of adult siblings, each one with their own baggage and bullshit, who come home to sit shiva for 7 days following their father’s death. i won’t give away more than that, partially because the trailer below will do the story justice (as the best book to movie transformations do), and partially because i am telling you, you should read this book. this book made me laugh. it made me cry. it made me feel like my family wasn’t so crazy after all. after finishing it, i went on to read each and every one of tropper’s books (plan b is another favorite). when i heard they were turning this is where i leave you into a movie, i immediately called my friend sara (also known as my literary bff) and reported that we would be getting our asses to the theater on opening night. then the movie was delayed for a year or two, and i heard no word of it.
and all of a sudden, the film is made, and there’s a trailer to watch. and it’s as wonderfully funny and heartwarming and smart as i remember the novel being. see for yourself.