I heard about this book from so many people that loved it and I was reading this yesterday wondering if the author was ever going to get to the point. I didn’t dislike any character, I just didn’t feel engaged. Brodesser-Akner chose to tell this story via certain narrative styles that didn’t work. We have a first person point of view told by someone who used to be close to one of the characters that we follow for most of this book (her name is Elizabeth) and then we then do third person point of view for Toby and then we jump back and forth until the last bit where we get Toby’s estranged wife Rachel’s point of view. As other reviewers had said I just wanted to focus on Toby and Rachel’s story. We had so much thrown at us. I think Brodesser-Akner wants us to get that marriage is complicated, and I got that. I just wish that we had explored the issues that were going on with Rachel more. She felt like an after thought and her story-line was the most powerful to me and why I ended up giving this book three stars.
“Fleishman Is in Trouble” follows almost divorced late 40 something year old Toby Fleishman. Toby we find is now after being in a marriage where he felt like his wife Rachel hated him, is now out there just sleeping with as many women as he can. He feels free from Rachel and her controlling ways and thinks that he can finally move on and not feel as much pressure as he did while married to her. However, Rachel throws a wrench in things when she drops their two kids off at his place (without telling him until after the fact). Toby has plans (to have sex) and tries to juggle the kids and his job as a specialist (he’s a liver doctor, no I can’t recall the name for it). Toby has reached out to his old friends that he hasn’t talked to in a while, Elizabeth and Seth and pretty much talks about himself and the problems with Rachel. However, when Rachel doesn’t return like she was supposed to, Toby has to decide what to do next and goes through a lot of highs and lows while trying to parent, trying to get a promotion, and then also trying to get to know a woman that he likes more.
Brodesser-Akner also allows us insight into Toby via another person, his old friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a struggling stay at home mother. She loves her husband and kids, but freels diminished.
We then round out the characters by Brodesser-Akner then allowing us insight into Rachel.
I didn’t feel annoyed by anyone. I got where everyone was coming from in their individual story-lines. I honestly though though without Elizabeth and Rachel’s POVs we would not have gotten a real sense of Toby. You start reading and feel as if he’s the wronged husband. Until you see that he wasn’t as understanding and loving as he seemed to think he was.
We get some interesting secondary characters including the Fleishman kids.
The writing was good, though I started to get bored by Toby after a while. I wish that we had maybe started off with Elizabeth, then jumped to Toby, and then stayed with Rachel for the rest of the story. Instead we go from Toby, Elizabeth, back to Toby, Elizabeth, and then Toby, and then I think it went to Rachel, and it goes back to Elizabeth and then Toby. It was a bit much and the flow was up and down for most of this book because of this.
The ending I thought was quite lovely though. You can guess what comes next. And I think the underlying message that marriage is hard, and you have to decide how hard are you yourself going to make it for someone that when you married them, you were in love with hopefully.