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Fleishman Is in Trouble

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Recently separated Toby Fleishman is suddenly, somehow--and at age forty-one, short as ever--surrounded by women who want him: women who are self-actualized, women who are smart and interesting, women who don't mind his height, women who are eager to take him for a test drive with just the swipe of an app. Toby doesn't mind being used in this way; it's a welcome change from the thirteen years he spent as a married man, the thirteen years of emotional neglect and contempt he's just endured. Anthropologically speaking, it's like nothing he ever experienced before, particularly back in the 1990s, when he first began dating and became used to swimming in the murky waters of rejection.

But Toby's new life--liver specialist by day, kids every other weekend, rabid somewhat anonymous sex at night--is interrupted when his ex-wife suddenly disappears. Either on a vision quest or a nervous breakdown, Toby doesn't know--she won't answer his texts or calls.

Is Toby's ex just angry, like always? Is she punishing him, yet again, for not being the bread winner she was? As he desperately searches for her while juggling his job and parenting their two unraveling children, Toby is forced to reckon with the real reasons his marriage fell apart, and to ask if the story he has been telling himself all this time is true.

373 pages, Hardcover

First published June 18, 2019

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About the author

Taffy Brodesser-Akner

5 books1,161 followers
Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine. Prior to that, her work appeared in GQ, ESPN the Magazine, Matter, Details, Texas Monthly, Outside, Self, Cosmopolitan and many other publications. Fleishman Is In Trouble is her first novel.

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5 stars
16,266 (21%)
4 stars
27,574 (36%)
3 stars
21,381 (28%)
2 stars
7,162 (9%)
1 star
2,347 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,794 reviews
Profile Image for Matthew Budman.
Author 3 books53 followers
April 2, 2023
Damn, I wanted to like this novel. Brodesser-Akner is one of our greatest magazine feature writers, and the reviews—by people I trust—have been near-unanimous raves. But I kind of hated it.

There are many, many sharp observations here about men & women & marriage & divorce. The prose is extremely quotable though nowhere near as funny as some readers have suggested (the raunchy dating-app material is mostly just sad). But the problem for me isn’t that literally every adult character except for the largely invisible narrator is unsympathetic—it’s the lack of universality in both the story and the relationship insights. Brodesser-Akner’s characters all come from a narrow slice of wealthy, social-climbing NY/NJ life; these men/women/marriage/divorce problems are very much Upper East Side men/women/marriage/divorce problems. And everyone here seems . . . stuck. Characters find themselves in time & money crunches, feeling neglected, resentful of spouses & friends & co-workers, but those crunches are the product of choices—choices that are neither inevitable nor permanent. It’s irritating that none of the characters seems to recognize that there are alternative ways of living, communicating, parenting.

Two-thirds of the way through the novel, I was dreading a radical eleventh-hour perspective shift à la Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies . . . and sure enough, it arrives and speeds through an alternate view of the story we’ve just read, intended to unsettle everything we thought, with blocks of mostly undigested essay text on relationships—again, insightful stuff, but not necessarily relevant. Toby and Rachel’s marriage is so unusual & dysfunctional & awful that viewing it from different angles yields limited returns. #notallmen #notallwomen #notallmarriages #notalldivorces
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 118 books157k followers
May 25, 2019
This is indeed a very readable novel with really interesting characters. There are a lot of people in their early forties having mid-life crises in this novel. And I was really interested in those crises as they are very interesting. The prose is so dense, almost too dense at times. This is one of those novels where there is so much story to tell and I wanted to know all of that story but I question the structure. There is a narrative device of a third party narrator that honestly drove me to distraction. I kept thinking, "why is she telling us this story?" I just wanted Toby and Rachel to tell their story.

That said, this book is going to do very well and it should because it is wickedly smart and angry and it absolutely skewers a certain social set while also saying necessary things about success and gender and marriage and the ways women are punished for being ambitious and complicated and human.

The ending is wonderful. As in the last line. I liked that a lot. Great summer book. I hope people read it.
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,128 followers
March 12, 2020
Fleishman is in Trouble is the kind of book that makes a mockery of the 5-star rating system. Here is a novel that is equal parts highly relatable and alienating; enjoyable and aggravating (and great bookclub fodder: discuss for hours!). This book wants you to sympathize with millionaire New Yorkers, people whose lifestyle is totally out of reach for most, and to see them as people with feelings and real struggles … but not with the even-wealthier New Yorkers who it casts as villains and over-privileged jerks. It tries so hard to subvert narratives that it ends up doubling back on itself.

“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 novel is a Trojan horse, ostensibly about the recently separated Toby Fleishman and his adventures in dating, but really about his ball-busting wife Rachel (in absentia) and his old friend Libby, who functions as both a (preternaturally omniscient) Nick Carraway-type narrator and as an author stand-in.

Cleverly, Toby is cast in the traditionally feminine role of being the secondary earner in his marriage (despite his six-figure hepatologist’s salary, which pales in comparison to Rachel’s career as a celebrity agent). Meanwhile Rachel’s narrative tackles that old chestnut: ‘women are expected to parent like they don’t have a job, and work like they don’t have kids’. Slightly undermining all this is the enormous resources the pair have to hire nannies, assistants and the like. Much of their financial, and indeed emotional, strain is self-inflicted from a desire to climb the ladder and keep up appearances. Still, Brodesser-Akner does a good job of making us care.

The story is incredibly layered, with almost every plot point taking on a permutation of gender inequality: the one-woman “off-off-off-off-off-Broadway” show that gives Rachel her big break as an agent; Toby’s dating-app sexting escapades; his female patient’s previously overlooked medical condition; an incident involving Rachel & Toby’s tween daughter at sleepaway camp; and more. The layers—each one potent and endlessly discussable in its own right—are so crammed in together there’s no space for anything to breathe, and the novel densifies under their weight.

It’s also kind of repetitious, making the same contentions in slightly different flavours over and over. Libby has a long diatribe towards the end which, while very much on point, seems like a Brodesser-Akner essay on gender roles shoehorned in there just to bludgeon the reader one last time.

The Trojan horse manoeuvre is inspired but it fails in execution because 80% of the novel is spent describing the horse, ie Toby’s story. The horse is not the point. I was rather bored by the horse and wanted much, much more of Rachel.

Maybe, inadvertently, the Trojan horse here is not a man’s story, but rich people’s stories. Imagine a novel skewering gender roles, marriage, and midlife, but it’s about a divorced parent on the poverty line, relying on welfare (and child support payments that never, ever arrive), working around the clock to provide for their children. When that character experiences a breakdown, disappears for weeks, cutting off all contact with their own kids… would readers sympathise with them? Would such a novel even get published? Could it ever be a smash hit like Fleishman is in Trouble?

If the measure of a book is how much you want to talk about it when you’re done, this would be an easy 5 stars. If it’s how much you enjoy the ride, maybe 2? Split the difference then, Fleishman is in Trouble gets 3.5 stars from me.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,033 reviews48.5k followers
June 13, 2019
Believe the hype. “Fleishman Is in Trouble” is even better than we were promised. Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a New York Times Magazine writer, brings to her first novel the currency of a hot dating app and the wisdom of a Greek tragedy. The result is a feminist jeremiad nested inside a brilliant comic novel — a book that makes you laugh so hard you don’t notice till later that your eyebrows have been singed off.

As the story opens, life sounds like an erotic carnival for Toby Fleishman. A New York doctor newly separated from his wife, Toby has arrived at the age of 41 to discover a city suddenly flush with women who want him. Now. “His phone was aglow from sunup to sundown,” the narrator writes, with texts that contained “underboob and sideboob and just straight up boob and all the parts of a woman he never dared dream he would encounter.” After enduring a chronically nerdy adolescence and a tense 14-year marriage, Toby is dazzled by this sexual bounty. “Could it be,” he wonders, “that he wasn’t as. . . .

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews34.1k followers
November 21, 2022
Update? Is anyone watching the series on Hulu?
Paul and I are loving it.
We’ve only seen a few episodes so far — but tons of entertainment value! Great cast - kids too!

This witty, crude, comic/tragic contemporary story ‘mostly’ worked for me.
A little shorter would have worked better -a little less repetitiveness even better...

Truth was seeping through the seams.... while exploring marriage, divorce, friendships, dating, sexing, colleagues, children, siblings, money, narcissism, assholes, annoyances, anger, selfishness, entitlement, play dates, yoga clothes, beef lo mein, women of a certain age, ramblings, points of view from several characters, communication challenges, all in the context of being a touchy & controversial novel.
I imagine readers thoughts are all over the place from disappointment to greatness and everything in between.

Personally - I found this book to be better than my expectations. I saw very low reviews come out the door fast. So - I wasn’t expecting much.
For me... it provokes
Some of the best parts are near the end - twisting my ‘thinking’ and purpose for the first half of the book.

Life is short...
Life is validating & affirming
Life lacks forgiveness
Life is annoying- infuriating
Life is disorienting
Life is flawed
Life is love

Modern life is complex with complicated dynamics...
Taffy Brodesser-Akner gives us a satire of the bare interior of marriage & divorce and all the orgasms of life that come with it.

It’s crazy - it’s light & dark -
it’s funny - it’s sad.
Not to everyone’s taste..
but it fit mine.
I enjoyed this fiction catastrophe!
Flawed - flawed - and flawed....

“Fleishman is in Trouble” gives us *Toby Fleishman* ... middle age -
a short 5’5” tall Jewish guy.
I’ve heard short-Jewish-guy jokes much all my life. I have a couple of very smart, upper-middle class short Jewish guy friends. They do make me laugh...
so at times I found Toby Fleishman fairly relatable.....
Other times - just obnoxiously annoying.

Set in Manhattan- the Hamptons, and Israel.

“Toby Fleishman thought he knew what to expect when he and his wife of almost fifteen years separated: weekends and every other holiday with the kids, some residual bitterness, the occasional moment of tension in their co-parenting negotiations.
He could not have predicted that one day in the middle of his summer of sexual emancipation, Rachel would drop their two children off at his place and simply not return. He had been working so hard to find equilibrium in his single life”.

Toby tries to figure out where Rachel went, while balancing work at the hospital, his kids, and his new sexual popularity.
He also needs to seriously examine what went wrong in his marriage.

The dialogue is often crass with it’s non-stop sexual exploits. Yet it’s shrewdness and insightful wittiness was thought-provoking.

I didn’t find this novel ‘ha-ha’ hilarious- but I did
laugh. I rolled my eyes on occasion..but I was very surprised when -from time to time - gut-truthful sentences bounced off the page.

“He couldn’t see his own reflection in the mirror anymore”.
As an aging - past middle age woman...I’m not so sure I can see my reflection in the mirror anymore either.
Instead... I reflect inward.

4.5 .... for the entertaining inventive - psychologically intriguing - worthy insightful look at petty cruelties -
a look at ‘me’ - colliding with social changes.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,447 reviews7,544 followers
September 20, 2019
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

What makes a book literary fiction? Dense writing? Bogged down in unnecessary details? Filled with unlikeable people? Repetitive? Too many pages for the subject matter being tackled? Pretention? An author who has a day job at the New Yorker? Beat-you-over-the-head-super-preachy-but-trying-to-be-cleverly-hidden social commentary? A narrator who feels like an afterthought the majority of the time and who jumps the train off the track by choosing to begin telling her story at some point rather than the one she is supposed to be telling? If so, this checks all the boxes. It also had me like . . . . .

No point in attempting a review. I’m quite sure I was too stupid to “get” this book so I’ll save the trolls some typing. I didn’t like the characters– I didn’t like the writing – I didn’t like the message . . . . or rather the way the message was delivered. I didn’t like one thing about it and that’s my opinion. End of story.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
489 reviews596 followers
September 15, 2019
Man there's a lot of sex in this book. It feels like it's on every page. I wasn't offended by it, it just bored me. If Toby Fleishman is not scrolling through revealing pics over horny older women on a dating app, he's thinking about the last time he banged his horrible ex-wife, or when he might bang her next. His friends are no different - Libby is supposed to be the sensible voice of reason but she's still thinking about the affair she had with her first editor. And Seth is a total ladies man, just for some variation. I was almost relieved when we got to a scene with Toby's kids. Surely they'll have something else going in their lives, I thought to myself. Nope! Eight-year-old Solly gets busted for looking up "girl bagina" on the family computer.

Do people really think about sex this much? All day, every day? Sure it crosses my mind every now and then but I'm mostly thinking about whether my football team will win the next game or the amazing sandwich I had for lunch. And that's not the only repetitive aspect of the narrative - if I had to read one more reference to Toby's height...

I suppose the book has some interesting things to say about marriage and the fact that there are two sides to every story. But I couldn't really bring myself to care about any of the self-absorbed characters and their first world problems. I suppose I just expected more from one of the most hyped novels of the year.
Profile Image for Matt.
918 reviews28.3k followers
February 5, 2023
“Toby Fleishman awoke one morning inside the city he’d lived in all his adult life and which was suddenly somehow now crawling with women who wanted him. Not just any women, but women who were self-actualized and independent and knew what they wanted. Women who weren’t needy or insecure or self-doubting, like the long-ago prospects of his long-gone youth – meaning the women he had thought of as prospects but who had never given him even a first glance…”
- Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel

Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble giddily embraces so many topics that it’s hard to say what it’s about. It starts as a humorous look at a fortyish man who has just exited his marriage and entered the world of online dating apps. Then it starts to morph into the deconstruction of that relationship, with a close examination of the shifting power dynamics and inverted gender roles in modern heterosexual relationships. Along the way, it has plenty of things to say about parenthood, careers, social media, and overarching systems. Many of those things are incisive and beautifully worded, for this is a novel that overflows with talent.

It also creates a thematic mess that frequently contradicts itself as its many threads cross and recross.

More importantly, at least for me, is the fact that it centers on an emotional war to the knife between two privileged, entitled, wholly unlikable people, a war fought in a fairyland New York City where everyone has a doorman. I didn’t care at all about either of the dual protagonists, and thus, didn’t care for the book they’re asked to carry.


Fleishman Is in Trouble operates along three different paths.

The present-day focuses on Toby Fleishman, a liver-specialist in the Big Apple who is the first man in recorded history to get divorced. At least, that’s how he acts. Having left his thirties behind, the now-single father of two decides to get into the 21st century romance game. Using a dating app called Hr – one of Brodesser-Akner’s many gleeful inventions – Toby embarks on a sexual bacchanalia of the kind he could only have imagined in college. Each day, each hour, he is bombarded with explicit photographs that are listed with precision, as are his eventual conquests.

But then, just as he is about to fully engage with this carnal buffet, Toby’s ex-wife Rachel drops off his kids early one morning and disappears. A normal human operating with a semblance of concern would be worried about this turn of events. Not Toby. He is instantly, almost frighteningly mad, upset that he has been left as a single parent while there are sentient beings willing to consent to intimate relations only a couple of bus stops away.

While Toby attempts to navigate caring for two children with only a doctor’s salary and thousands in child support – he eventually sends them to a fancy summer camp – the story begins to circle back to scenes from his marriage. These flashbacks constitute the bulk of Fleishman Is in Trouble, and the picture Toby paints of Rachel, and their relationship, is downright terrifying. Rachel is described as a monster, better suited to eating bones beneath a bridge than running a successful talent agency, a career that Toby bitterly resents.

A major subplot – the third pathway I mentioned above – comes from our first-person narrator, Libby, who is a college-friend of Toby’s. She has her own hill to climb, meaning that she lives in the inner circle of hell (the suburbs), and is curiously frustrated by contentment.


Since I mentioned Libby, it’s worth briefly visiting Fleishman Is in Trouble’s structure. Though Libby introduces herself by the end of the opening paragraph, much of the story is presented strictly from Toby’s point-of-view, including thoughts only he could know. There is some implication that Libby could have learned everything from Toby at some point, but that’s not really possible at this level of detail. For long stretches, this feels like it’s written in the third-person.

What makes this interesting is that Toby – as Brodesser-Akner has admitted – is a transplant from an Updike novel, a man of a certain age who has never received the level of sexual gratification to which he believes he’s entitled. The twist is that this really isn’t Toby’s story at all, but Rachel’s, and is being told by a woman. Libby explicitly states the reason for this convoluted setup: “the only way to get someone to listen to a woman [is] to tell her story through a man.” Whether this conceit works will probably consume most of your book club.

Initially, I liked it, with the early-going funny, well-paced, and filled with snappy lines.

Then Libby interrupts the Toby-Rachel storyline to insert herself forcefully into the proceedings, bemoaning her very existence. Specifically, she wants to tell us about the Plight of the Upper Middle Class.™

What is the Plight of the Upper Middle Class? Why, it is the intellectual crisis that one is able to indulge after all basic human needs have been met: food, clothing, shelter, primary education (private), medical care, secondary education (private), second shelter (Vail or the Vineyard), post-secondary education (Yale, with Columbia as a fallback), and a country club membership. Libby is married to a rich lawyer, has two healthy kids, a nice house, and no economic worries, so everything she complains about – and it’s a lot – falls into the category of upper-order actualization far beyond anything anticipated by Maslow.


The unacknowledged gift of limitless disposable income warps everything Brodesser-Akner is trying to say. I’ve considered whether this is a satire of affluent New Yorkers, but it’s not. Brodesser-Akner approaches the class anxieties of her characters with utter seriousness, asking us to care – I mean, really care – whether Rachel Fleishman can make the leap from merely rich to generationally wealthy. Around the third time that she reminds us that Toby’s $300,000 salary is “good” but not “great,” it’s pretty clear she means it.

I bring this up because drama requires stakes. The higher the stakes, the better the drama. There are no stakes here. Toby is well-off. Rachel is well-off. The divorce isn’t going to ruin them, as it could possibly ruin someone who isn’t perched atop the highest marginal tax rate.

Meanwhile, Libby is burdened with a final act monologue in which she explains what you were supposed to have learned in the preceding pages. With the muddle of interlocking motifs, it’s not surprising that Brodesser-Akner decided to go this route. Moreover, everything that’s said – regarding gender inequalities, female relegation, and the cap on ambition caused by motherhood – rests on widely-experienced truths. For me, though, that message is obscured by the messenger. Libby has eluded those roadblocks with help from a platinum card. She isn’t engaged in the impossible balancing of – for instance – a single-mother keeping an hourly job while still picking her kids up from school. She’s a writer in self-imposed exile who can work from home and afford all the daycare she does or doesn’t want. This speech felt unearned, an act of appropriating the problems of others.


But that’s not even the deal-breaker.

It’s the characters.

Even though Toby’s viewpoint is the one most often expressed, I knew from the first ten pages that he was a raging asshole. This is a guy who doesn’t need to wear clothes, because he’s cloaked in his own self-righteousness. Sarcastic, moralistic, hypocritical. In one scene, he turns down a million dollar yearly salary without discussing it with Rachel, all because of his “principles.” Then he screams at her because he blames her for the offer. He’s borderline psychopathic.

Then there’s Rachel.

Initially presented as a one-dimensional villain, you are told early on – by the Table of Contents – that she’ll eventually get to tell her side of the story. Brodesser-Akner handles this really well, giving us mirror-twinned scenes that replay already-discussed events from Rachel’s perspective. There are also elements of her backstory that make her far more sympathetic, and I appreciate that. Nevertheless, a person’s history can explain their actions without excusing them. Ultimately, whatever Rachel went through, she ends up treating others like disposable rubbish, instead of people.

I’m not sure I bought Brodesser-Akner’s explanation for why Toby and Rachel ended up together in the first place, but by the time of their split, I was convinced they were meant for each other.


I’ll be the first to admit that Fleishman Is in Trouble is not my typical literary genre. This was a buddy-read with my wife, in preparation for the television show we planned to watch together. As you might have guessed, she is now watching that alone.

My experience with this novel is that alone: mine. It’s entirely subjective, and filtered through my own pet peeves, one of which is frivolous and moneyed individuals committing self-inflicted wounds in a whitewashed New York City. If you can get past that, then perhaps Brodesser-Akner’s ideas land with more impact.

Beyond that, I fully admit that Fleishman Is in Trouble engages you, it asks questions, it pokes at you, it’s meta-textual, commenting on itself as it goes along, demanding discussion. It is gorgeously written, though the prose is in service to a product that – in my opinion – it doesn’t deserve.

Clearly, this is a novel I disliked. But I really enjoyed disliking it, and will probably remember it far better than the next book I claim to love.
Profile Image for Claire Reads Books.
137 reviews1,384 followers
August 13, 2019
I’m not saying stories about the marital and financial angst of people who make well over six figures and choose (voluntarily!) to live in New York are by nature dull and exhausting, but wow, this one was. In this novel, it seems every unhappy family is, in fact, unhappy in the exact same way, and nothing about Taffy Akner’s storytelling (which is far more suited to the exposition-friendly profiles that made her famous) offers enough insight to make it worth suffering through these characters’ misery and self-pity. And did we need to spend 80% of this novel with a transparently awful man to get to the book’s *actual* point that – surprise! what a twist –everything is worse for women? This review is probably too harsh and salty, so I apologize for being so dismissive – probably a sign that I should’ve just DNF’ed this one way back at the 20 page mark.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,604 reviews24.8k followers
March 24, 2020
Fleishman is in Trouble is a incisive, sharply observed and humorous novel that examines the nature and anatomy of a American marriage, family, divorce and identity at the privileged end of the social and economic spectrum, set in New York. The Jewish middle aged hepatologist, Toby Fleishman, and his wife, Rachel, are getting divorced, retaining joint custody of their children, 11 year old Hannah and 7 year old Solly. Whilst this is an entertaining read, there are aspects that grate and irritate, it is overly repeating and in some of the portrayed sex life of Toby. A surprised Toby now discovers he is a much desired man, wanted by many women, which is in sharp contrast to his younger days when disappointment and rejection were more his lot. Nowadays, the modern world of online dating and apps have him plunging in enthusiastically, keen to expand his sexual experiences.

His ambitious wife, Rachel, was the primary bread winner in their marriage, with her successful talent agency, and her efforts to push him to be equally go getting were rebuffed by him. Toby's world shifts considerably when Rachel unexpectedly disappears, leaving him with the children to look after, he becomes increasingly frustrated as he is unable to locate the elusive Rachel. Left with all the responsibilities of parenting in the modern age of mobile phones and problematic social media, Toby's professional career begins to suffer. Toby is to find that his thoughts and beliefs regarding his marriage are not necessarily so. In a narrative related by Toby's old friend, Libby, a former magazine features writer, herself married with a daughter, the author is partially successful in her use of the literary 'trojan horse' device to lay bare the unacknowledged realities that women face in society through role reversal, the issue is that there is an insufficient focus on the women.

We become privy to Rachel's perspective on her marriage and Libby's inner thoughts and feelings in the exploration and analysis of gender differences amidst the differing social and cultural attitudes and expectations when it comes to women in comparison to men. This is a satirical, multilayered read on the complexities of life, the challenges of marriage, the inequalities, parenting, the differing experiences of ageing faced by men and women, middle aged angst, identity, and the self inflicted further pressures placed within marriages, parenting and family. I found this a particularly thought provoking reading when it comes to looking at and evaluating the concept of marriage in our complicated modern contemporary realities. Many thanks to Headline for an ARC.
64 reviews
July 6, 2019
A sharp and sardonic novel in which the only nice person is the 9 year old son.
Profile Image for PamG.
818 reviews485 followers
June 25, 2019
I won a kindle e-book edition of this novel in a Goodreads Giveaway. Unfortunately, it was not the book for me.

The main character, Toby Fleishman, is 41 years old, a doctor, short, going through a divorce, and learning about internet dating sites. It covers marriage, children, divorce, internet dating, the affects of divorce on children and much more. Unfortunately, the pacing was slow and I did not care for the characters.

This novel was not poignant, memorable, or even thought-provoking to me. I actually dreaded picking up my kindle every time I started to read more of this book. Maybe, I was in the mood to read a different type of book. It may appeal to others, but it was not for me.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
700 reviews29.1k followers
May 1, 2020
So much to think about here. This is a book of many layers, a book that keeps on giving. Brodesser-Akner has so many astute observations about marriage and being a woman--particularly interesting is her thesis that a story must be told through the perspective of a man to be taken seriously.

Then she uses her skills as a writer to do just that, beginning her tale through Toby (a man's eyes), who is going through a divorce and using a constellation of characters around Toby to fill in the details. It's very clever. The way she reverses roles, and without giving away the ending, makes her point very clear.

I initially struggled with the novel because I found many of her characters unlikeable. They are smart, witty and sometimes wise, but then they would treat other people poorly, such as their devoted nanny. The main characters are scornful and derisive, they pass judgment on everyone: their life partners, the preppy kid, the sad "non-working" mother. For example, Rachel says, "The only thing more offensive than Miriam not working was Miriam thinking she did work. But Miriam would never know true success. She would never know achievement. She would never know what it was like to build something and hold it in your hands." There is so much judgement in that sentence!

We are all fallible, we all make mistakes. The strange dichotomy is that these characters seem so frustrated with their own mortality, and yet are so judgemental of everyone else's sloppy, imperfect lives. I found them in many ways to be petty, with a hyper-focus on money, status and external success. After I finished the book, I went to bed, a bit disturbed. I woke up thinking these characters perhaps lacked an internal life. It was quite a contrast after just finishing four Austen books, where inner life is held up so highly in her careful hands.

But ultimately, I had a lot of sympathy for the mother in this book. She is a highly intelligent woman who on the surface appears to have it all. A very wise octogenarian once told me, "You can have it all, but not at the same time." I've often reflected on this comment. The mother in this book is trying to do just that: for her it's having a big job and being the boss, lots of yoga, being involved with her children lives and activities, and vast social commitments. Personally, I've found it impossible to do many things well at the same time. Something is always breaking down. Another wise octogenarian I know (I love to talk to people in their 80s), once told me, "It's no problem to have a big job and an involved relationship with your children, but then you must have no social life." I have also pondered that comment over the years.

Anyways, at this moment, during a pandemic, we are all suffering from a new normal. I've seen many women posting in social media about how this current pandemic is difficult for them. All the things they used to outsource are now on their shoulders while they still have to continue their old jobs (and did we mention homeschooling?). When you try to do everything at once, how can you do it all well? Time is finite. Women and men are forced to make difficult choices.

I'm glad that Brodesser-Akner has contributed so thoughtfully to this debate. This book is a great one for starting up important conversations.
Profile Image for Blaine.
749 reviews609 followers
March 16, 2021
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.
On the surface, Fleishman Is in Trouble is the story of Toby Fleishman, a 41-year-old doctor who’s going through a divorce. He’s learning to navigate his new lifestyle—especially dating apps—and trying to balance his job and his suddenly active sex life with his parenting responsibilities to two tween kids. But when Rachel, his soon-to-be ex-wife, disappears from his life it sends him and their kids into a downward spiral.

But look underneath the surface and you’ll slowly notice that the story here is not being told by Toby, or by some omniscient narrator. The story is being told by Libby Epstein, a friend of Toby’s from college, with whom he reconnected during his divorce. And she’s not just telling Toby’s story. She is telling Rachel’s story. She is telling her own story. And ultimately she is speaking to the universal “overwhelming unfairness of what happens to a woman’s status and body and position in the culture once she’s a mother.”

Sounds heavy, right? A Upper Manhattan version of Fates and Furies? Not really. There are some similarities in structure and the deeper themes of what makes a marriage. But overall, the tone of Fleishman Is in Trouble is comic, and downright hilarious in places, with sharp writing throughout (e.g., “He had a slightly lazy eye, which would stray only when he’d been staring at you for a long time, as if the eye were done with the conversation and was hinting at the rest of him that it was time to go.”)

Fleishman Is in Trouble is a brilliant—and apparently underrated, at least on Goodreads—debut novel. A must read.
Profile Image for Brandice.
857 reviews
August 18, 2019
Dr. Toby Fleishman is separated from his wife, Rachel, a workaholic talent agent. They have 2 kids, an 11-year old, Hannah, and a 9-year old, Solly. In the midst of their divorce, Toby moves into a mediocre apartment while Rachel stays in their high-end one. In between working at the hospital, where he’s up for a promotion, and remaining a steady father to his kids, Toby ventures into the world of online dating. He’s shocked and intrigued by the forwardness of many women now, as he’s been out of the dating game for years. One morning he wakes up to find his kids at his place — Rachel dropped them off while Toby was sleeping. After an impromptu day of taking care of them, Rachel doesn’t return. After a few odd days where she remains M.I.A., Toby realizes: he’s in trouble.

Relationships are complicated and 41-year old Toby is forced to take a hard look at his, with his ex-wife, his children, friends, and others. While I can relate to the ambitious career-driven woman, Rachel was incredibly unlikable and my feelings about her character didn’t change much. I had no idea where Fleishman is in Trouble was headed or how things would turn out, but for the most part, enjoyed the journey. I also liked the way the book was written - Smart and impactful.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for providing an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,468 reviews563 followers
January 6, 2020
I adore this novel! There is so much cleverness here - an aching, intelligent cleverness that doesn't cross the line to snarky. While reading, I nodded so much (Yes, that's it! Exactly!) that my neck still aches. Brodesser-Akner writes beautifully and with penetrating insight about marriage and relationships. For a while, I thought I "got" Toby and Rachel, but these characters are so alive they can't be easily pinned down. For me, this was a totally immersive page turner that spun me around and around.
Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 2 books717 followers
September 13, 2022
I've been throwing out a lot of five-star ratings in recent months, and it's starting to freak me out. For a while, I started to think I was getting soft in my old age, but I've just looked back at the last ten books on my read shelf and, yep, they really were good reads. This one was probably a hundred pages longer than it needed to be, but even the redundant sections were so well written that I couldn't help but give full marks.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.4k followers
December 22, 2020
This was a recipe for disaster, in hindsight.

At first I thought, life hack!!! Because reading books by magazine writers is basically like reading magazines that count toward your reading challenge.

But then this had all the humanity of a magazine profile and none of the charm, which is kinda crazy considering these are fictional characters.

And I am always Team Woman, so reading a book about a newly divorced couple from the man's perspective...also disastrous.

I managed to resist hating these characters for most of this (a feat for which I deserve a medal, or a small trophy), but it hit me like a wall at the end. And then the very end was pretty good!

But not good ENOUGH.

Bottom line: Bleh.

Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews516 followers
June 30, 2019
Entertaining (almost existential) Exploration of Marriage at Midlife

This wonderful novel was written with keen powers of observation, mordant wit and subversive humor. It delightfully and incisively deconstructs marriage at middle age, showing the incompatibility of ye olde bride-and-groom institution with the egocentric, puerile, and device-driven lives of so many modern-day spouses in their late 30s, early 40s, especially those with kids.

The novel is most profound on the constant need, particularly festering after reaching 40, for the quick fix (again, and again) of an ego-boost (men mostly) or intrigue and attention (women largely) via micro-sexual encounters with the "strange" and alluring. Ms. Akner satirizes a society that force-feeds us a series of instant gratifications daily which ultimately bleed the joy out of monogamous relationships and starve healthy gratitude from and toward the spouse.

Fault abounds for infidelity -- of the wife here. Fleishman's troubles (with women anyway) begins after divorce is in the works.

At some point, earlier than later, a divorcee might face any number of self-revelations, such as:
that meaningful love is elusive;

that a deeper, more intimate joy may well have been more attainable in marriage;

that much as 40-somethings may daydream, they cannot time travel to recapture youth's beauty or the thrill of newness in each sexual encounter;

and, that... oh that ... dating apps and sexting and bodice-ripping first encounters in and of middle age, while adrenaline rushes and uber-calorie-burns, they are emotionally jarring dives into shallowness.

With the exception of one in a million, the grass that seemed a lush emerald turns out more a shade of chartreuse tinted toward yellow.

Fleishman Is in Trouble was both edifying and enlightening on the human condition in the life and times in which we live, in a way that only social satires can be.
Profile Image for Renee.
77 reviews11 followers
July 11, 2019
The writing was pretty good, but the characters were all so annoying and unsympathetic. There were a few parts that lulled me into believing something worthwhile might be right around the corner. It never came.
Profile Image for Pedro.
191 reviews403 followers
September 15, 2019
I’m exhausted!
This book was a pain to read and also a pain to rate and review. Unexpectedly dense. Layers and layers. Different points of view. Different time lines. Flashbacks. Dreams. Even different narrators, if you’d believe it!

Personally, I found this constant change of narrators completely annoying and distracting and because of that I feel I didn’t get to know the characters well enough. Every time I came back to this book I had to read a few of the pages I had already read. Also I was never really looking forward to going back to all those arguments and midlife crisis. And every time I did the only thing I knew was that obviously they woukd be talking about divorce because that was all they talked about.
Divorce, who said what to who, who did what and why, who’s going to keep the kids, etc, etc. This book was exhausting, which makes sense, I think. Relationships are exha... Hmmm... complicated.

The whole thing felt a bit flat and slightly pretentious but I’ll give it 4 stars only because I really liked the way the author wrapped things up.

And to finalise this review I’ll leave you with Tammy Wynette and the hit D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

Our little boy is four years old and quite a little man
So we spell out the words we don't want him to understand
Like T-O-Y or maybe S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E
But the words we're hiding from him now
Tears the heart right out of me.
Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today
Me and little J-O-E will be goin' away
I love you both and it will be pure H-E double L for me
Oh, I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
Watch him smile, he thinks it Christmas
Or his fifth birthday
And he thinks C-U-S-T-O-D-Y spells fun or play
I spell out all the hurtin' words
And turn my head when I speak
'Cause I can't spell away this hurt
That's drippin' down my cheek.
Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today
Me and little J-O-E will be goin' away
I love you both and it will be pure H-E double L for me
Oh, I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,654 followers
August 19, 2019
This is an incredible novel about a marriage in crisis. I've been following Taffy's writing in The New York Times and was thrilled to hear she published her first book.

I didn't know much about the story before I picked it up, and I'm not sure if that helped or hurt my reading enjoyment. The book starts from the perspective of Toby Fleishman, who is separated from his wife, Rachel, and is navigating life as a single parent. At first I thought the entire story would be told from Toby's point of view, but I was pleasantly surprised that later in the book we get to see everything from Rachel's viewpoint, which is dramatically different from her husband's perspective.

There are several things I loved about this book, and top of the list is Taffy's descriptive writing. This is a sharply observed look at life in upper-class New York City. I genuinely felt like I knew these people, their neighborhood, their life. I also loved the portrayal of a marriage, and in this case, how wildly different the perceptions were.

Which brings me to something that made me uneasy as a reader. In the first part of the book, Toby's view of his wife is so negatively skewed that it borders on caricature. Because I had read so many of Taffy's articles, I trusted that there was a point to this dark side, so I kept reading. But it must be said that if you are sensitive to such portrayals of women, you might get turned off, especially if you don't know that the wife's viewpoint is eventually shared.

There is also an occasional narrator, who turns out to be a longtime friend of Toby, but the narration comes and goes and is a bit distracting. The narrator is a magazine writer, so I forgave Taffy for this narrative device because I figured it was her way of getting part of her experience in the book.

In the end, this is an impressive debut novel about a marriage. Highly recommended.

Opening Passage
"Toby Fleishman awoke one morning inside the city he'd lived in all his adult life and which was suddenly somehow now crawling with women who wanted him. Not just any women, but women who were self-actualized and independent and knew what they wanted. Women who weren't needy or insecure or self-doubting, like the long-ago prospects of his long-gone youth -- meaning the women he had thought of as prospects but who were motivated and available and interesting and interested and exciting and excited. These were women who would not so much wait for you to call them one or two or three socially acceptable days after you met them as much as send you pictures of their genitals the day before. Women who were open-minded and up for anything and vocal about their desires and needs and who used phrases like 'put my cards on the table' and 'no strings attached' and 'I need to be done in ten because I have to pick up Bella from ballet.' Women who would fuck you like they owed you money, was how our friend Seth put it."
Profile Image for Meike.
1,515 reviews2,458 followers
April 26, 2020
This is a novel about the good old midlife crisis brought about by the insight that as time passes, options dwindle because past decisions tend to influence the present - and it's also a book about people being sometimes unwilling and always ultimately unable to fully grasp what it means to walk in somebody else's shoes. Told by his college friend Libby, we hear the story of hepatologist Dr. Toby Fleishman who wants to divorce his wife when she suddenly disappears, leaving him to care for their two young children. 41-year-old Toby is hoping for a promotion at the hospital, his patients depend on him, he wants to indulge in carefree sex via his dating app, he wants to re-connect with his college friends (and thus with his youth) and now he is also stuck with childcare duties - Fleishman is in trouble indeed.

But more than anything, this is a feminist novel: Narrator Libby discusses what different life choices can mean for women, like for Toby's wife Rachel (a highly successful talent agent), her acquaintances, the women Toby works with and whom he meets on the app and also for herself. She contemplates the dimensions and meanings of marriage and the expectations of family and society. All of this is told in a somewhat fragmented, episodic format that goes back and forth and frequently takes some unnecessary extra laps to hammer the points home. This is highly accessible literature, but compared to, let's say Very Nice, it takes itself pretty seriously for what it is. The language fluctuates between breezy and bitter and the characters often (intentionally) remain ambiguous: It's up to the reader to decide whether their responses are understandable and/or appropriate.

My problem with the book was mainly its repetitiveness, but Brodesser-Akner also manages to make life seem like one giant trap: Every choice is somehow wrong, for women and for men. There is of course a downside to pretty much everything, and don't get me wrong: I'm not expecting novels to be inspirational or, God forbid, aspirational, but a whole collection of NYC first-world problems presented as sources for existential crises that leave people damaged is maybe a liiiittle much.

These were some long 373 pages, and I don't quite get the hype. It's not a terrible book, but it also isn't terribly good. If you want to hear more about the book, you can listen to our podcast (in German, so about Fleishman steckt in Schwierigkeiten) here.
Profile Image for Bonnie Brody.
1,193 reviews187 followers
April 4, 2019
Toby Fleishman is a 41 year old jewish doctor, 5'5" tall, and sort of a shlemiel. He is soon to be divorced from Rachel, the wife of his nightmares. Despite earning close to $300,000 annually, he wears frayed shirts and feels like he's poor compared to his neighbors on the Upper East Side. He has two children and is trying to have a productive social life (sex and more sex) but Rachel doesn't adhere to the separation agreement and drops the kids off at any old time, even the middle of the might.

I had high expectations for this book and anticipated a 'Jonathon Tropper' or Philip Roth type experience. However, for want of a better description, it is boring and redundant. There were only so many times I wanted to hear about Toby's internet sexting experiences, the 'visuals' he loved on dating sites, and his desire to have a second chance at life. The book read like 'Sex and the City', with each episode being the same one. By page 100 I stifled a yawn and decided not to finish the book. I have a 75 page rule, meaning I quit a book after 75 pages if it doesn't grab me, but I extended my reading an extra 25 pages.

What was also annoying about this novel other than the repetition, was that it is told from different people's perspectives. I had trouble identifying who was talking or whether it was Toby in first person. Sometimes the book slipped into third person, like when Toby reminisces about meeting Rachel, and there seemed to be no special point to this confusing chorus.

If you want a book to read on the plane or at the beach, and you think you'd enjoy 'Sex and the City' with a definitively jewish bent, this book might resonate with you.
Profile Image for Antoinette.
754 reviews39 followers
July 8, 2019
When I started this book, I immediately thought this book wasn’t going to be for me. I was reading it for a book club event, so I knew I had to finish it.
Well, this book got under my skin and totally grew on me and by the final page, I thought, Wow, this book was so phenomenal!.

This book is about marriage and divorce and parenting and about finding one’s self.

We meet the wronged husband , Toby, firstly. Now that he’s going to get divorced, he’s decided he should indulge his libido to the max. This is when I’m thinking, “Is that all this book is going to be about?” Obviously not, or I may not have grown to admire it for what it truly was- an unflinching look at marriage- why do we marry?; what do we expect of marriage?; what happens when the kids come along? When does all the blaming start?

I am so glad the author included Rachel, Toby’s wife’s viewpoint. We also have a narrator, Elizabeth an old friend of Toby’s, who is going through a crisis of her own. These sections totally brought the whole book to life.

There were moments of hilarity in the book, moments of sadness. I didn’t feel much joy, but there was resolution- for that I am very happy!

Highly recommend this book, but don’t give up too quickly. The admiration sneaks up and evolves into an outstanding read!!

lines I’d like to share:

We watch ourselves and our spouses change, and the work is to constantly recall the reasons you did this in the first place.

How could you be this far along in life and still so unsettled? How could you know so much and still be baffled by it all?

Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,543 followers
April 15, 2020
I enjoyed this novel pretty much, but sometimes rich people's problems just seem so remote to me that I disconnected.
Fleishman Is in Trouble revolved primarily around Toby and Rachel Fleishman's dissolving marriage and Toby's friend Elizabeth/Libby's outside observations of its demise. Most of the book is in the third person following Toby, but there are significant portions in the first person as well. Toby is a liver specialist at the hospital while Rachel is a ladder-climbing publicity agent. They have two kids, Solly and Hannah and they live at the Golden condo in upper Manhattan Libby is married to Adam living in New Jersey, but we never formally meet her kids. Toby's best friend Seth is a womanizer that he has known since being kids - Libby, Seth and Toby having made a trip to Israel as teens - an incident which returns at several points in the story.
Like I said, I did like the writing. The bothersome bit was trying to empathize with someone being so miserable but making a quarter of a million dollars. Sometimes the "woe is me" tone got a bit grating.
Rachel and Toby's marriage has been on the rocks for a while. They have difficulties in communicating and Rachel dives head-first into her career gradually distancing herself from her family. Toby, meanwhile, is good at his job but lacks ambition - a fact that drives Rachel crazy, literally as it happens.
There are some good passages, and overall, a sense of humor over deeper melancholic middle-age themes which those of my age can identify with.

Assorted quotes (pages from my copy on Libby, your mileage may vary):
He couldn’t seem to convey to here that he was a real person, that he was not a blinking cursor awaiting her instructions, that he still existed when she wasn’t in a room with him. (3%)
Toby had been told all his life that being in love means never having to say you’re sorry. But no, it was actually being divorced that meant never having to say you’re sorry. (3%)
she seethed at him because he didn’t appear to magically understand how a song could ignite in her a nostalgia that she couldn’t possibly have had, never having had a boyfriend. (4%)
These questions weren’t really about him; no, they were questions about how perceptive people were and what they missed and who else was about to announce their divorce and whether the undercurrent of tension in their own marriages would eventually lead to their demise. (5%)
You get in a fight? Ultimately fine and something to laugh at in the end, because the Othello board is still white. But when it finally happens and the black disks take over - the affair, the financial impropriety, the boredom, the midlife crisis, whatever it is that ends the marriage - the board becomes black. (12%)
Livers behaved in some erratic ways, sure, all organs do. But the liver was unique in the way that it healed. It was full of forgiveness. It understood that you needed a few chances before you got your life right. And it wouldn’t just forgive you, it would practically forget. It would allow you to start over in a way that he could not imagine was true in any other avenue of life. We should all be like the liver. (14%)
A book should convey your suffering; a book should speak to what is roiling within you. I thought maybe I could do this through a good young-adult novel, but YA novels were all fantastical things these days, with werewolves and sea creatures and half-bloods and hybrids. My story was small and dumb. Nothing even really happened it it. (14%)
She laughed at him. “Divorce doesn’t make you any less married.” (58%)
I watched a couple go by, burrowing into each other so that they were nearly facing each other but still walking forward, like the cover of that Bob Dylan album. (98%)

I personally would not rate this as a Pulitzer candidate, but it is significantly more readable than, say, Trust Exercise or The Nickel Boys.

My List of 2020 Pulitzer Candidates: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1...
My blog about the 2020 Pulitzer: https://wp.me/phAoN-19m
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
385 reviews326 followers
February 5, 2020
Fleishman is in Trouble: by Taffy Brodesser-Akner is an intricate story involving Hepatologist, Dr Toby Fleishman’s separation from his wife, Rachel, at the age of 41. They have young children and are living in New York. This book is in 3 parts and is narrated by one of Toby’s college friends, Libby – who is a writer for a Men’s Magazine.

The first part was very, very funny indeed, as it spent much time recounting his exploits on various dating/sex apps and it genuinely provided me with some laugh out loud moments. Importantly though, we get to understand Toby’s perspective of why the relationship with his ex-wife fell apart. Assuming a fair number of us have experienced separation and divorce and many at a similar age, there is a hell of a lot here for us to identify with. It isn’t hard to get involved. The prose is very dense though, the reader is confronted by great slabs of text – but to me, it read very easily and was a real page turner.

The 2nd part, starts by describing how they first met, and what it was like to be truly happy and in love. This memory of the past and the fact Rachel can’t be found (yep, dropped the kids off and hasn't been seen) further intensify Toby’s dismay and negative feelings towards her. The reader is left in no doubt as to what has happened in this relationship and why the marriage hasn’t survived.

The 3rd part is the most interesting in my view, the humour very much takes a back seat and the analysis begins. The narrator takes a much more significant part in this section and in fact, a great deal of this is about her, her role as a woman in society and her marriage to Adam. But the real reason I love this section, I just can’t say. Spoiling this would be tragic – so no clues!

To my mind there are two main themes here. Firstly, the lack of ability each partner has to ‘walk in the shoes of the other’, the real inability to understand the viewpoint, and experiences of our significant other. This so often happens in relationships – it’s almost as if two different people are speaking entirely different languages and living on different planets. Secondly, the role of women in society and relationships becomes very prominent – particularly in the last third of the book. As a bloke – this is very interesting and useful to know!

There are so many other topics covered such as the challenges of mid-life crises, sexism in the workplace, raising kids (especially in separated families), sex, friendship and more.

The last paragraph was whhooooaaa – brilliant!

Some of my favourite passages include (I’ve de-identified it so as not to spoil):

“I would try to be a good partner to ……, and I would try not to put too much weight on the moments that are the worst in a marriage: when one of you is in a good mood and the other can’t recognise it or rise to its occasion and so leaves the other dangling in the loneliness of it; when one of you pretends to not really understand what the other person is saying and instead holds that person to a technicality they don’t deserve”

There’s also:

“…divorce is about forgetfulness – a decision to stop remembering the moment before all chaos – the moment they fell in love, the moment they knew they were more special together than apart. Marriages live in service to the memory of those moments”

The author really nails it with passages like this - There are many others, particularly in the third part of the book.

My only criticism; sometimes I found the narration a little confusing. One moment, Toby was having crazed sex with a stranger (where I assume the narrator couldn’t possibly have been), then next paragraph the narrator was referring to Toby as ‘he’ – and it threw me a bit.

This book is Brodesser-Akner’s first book, and what a beauty it is too. It is a very clever, complex, layered and witty piece of work. I was going to be a little more tight-fisted with 5 star ratings in 2020. However, I have no choice with this one but to lash out.

5 Stars
Profile Image for Tucker.
385 reviews106 followers
August 15, 2019
Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s debut novel, “Fleishman is in Trouble” has been advertised as a perfect beach read. I’m not entirely sure how marketers determine what qualifies as a beach read, but this is no light, frothy, confection of a book and not much time is spent at the beach. In fact, Brodesser-Akner recently questioned why her book was being marketed as a beach read. “I am confused as to why our taste for what we like would change in the location we read it, or the season.” So if the book is not a beach read, what is it?

I think it is an exceptional fictional examination of marriage in middle-age and how marriage’s initial promises can easily turn to discontents. Is that the fault of marriage, the prospects of aging, how individuals change over time?

“How could you be this far along in life and still so unsettled? How could you know so much and still be this baffled by it all? Was this what enlightenment felt like, an understanding that life is a cancer that metastasizes so slowly you only have a vague and intermittent sense of your dying? That the dying is happening slowly enough that you get used to it? Or maybe that wasn’t life. Maybe that was just middle age.”

Brodesser-Akner examines the lives of three friends who were close in college and have recently re-established their friendship. One is in the midst of divorce (with very mixed feelings about whether that is really the best resolution to the problems in the marriage,) one who is uncertain about her what dreams and desires are and how that fits within her marriage, and one who feels like it is finally time to settle down and get married. But is marriage really right for any of them? Do their expectations match the reality of married life?

“I dared him in the mornings to ask me questions so that I could tell him about how I didn’t know how to live anymore. God, I wanted to say, how are you supposed to live like this, knowing you used to answer to no one? How is this the arc we set for ourselves as a successful life? But he’d never understand that. He had the life he wanted. So did I. And yet. And yet and yet and yet and yet and yet. What were you going to do? Were you not going to get married when your husband was the person who understood you and loved you and rooted for you forever, no matter what? Were you not going to have your children, whom you loved and who made all the collateral damage (your time, your body, your lightness, your darkness) worth it? Time was going to march on anyway. You were not ever going to be young again. You were only at risk for not remembering that this was as good as it would get, in every single moment—that you are right now as young as you’ll ever be again. And now. And now. And now and now and now. How could we not impugn marriage, then? It becomes so intertwined with your quality of life, as one of the only institutions operating constantly throughout every other moment of your existence, that the person you are married to doesn’t stand a chance. You hold hands while you’re walking down the street when you’re happy, you turn away icily to stare out the window as the car goes over the bridge when you’re not, and exactly none of this has anything to do with that person’s behavior. It has to do with how you feel about yourself, and the person closest to you gets mistaken for the circumstance and you think, Maybe if I excised this thing, I’d be me again. But you’re not you anymore. That hasn’t been you in a long time. It’s not his fault. It just happened. It was always going to just happen.”

“Fleishman is in Trouble” is very well-written and insightful, while also being a smart, fun, and witty read. It’s certainly a book you can read at the beach or by the pool, but don’t restrict yourself to those locations or times. It’s a captivating read, no matter where you are!

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,332 reviews118 followers
February 9, 2020
National Book Award Longlist 2019. The Fleishmans have Upper West Side problems. Toby is a physician specializing in hepatology (liver diseases) making a ‘paltry’ quarter-of-a-million per year. Rachel is the primary breadwinner as an agent in the entertainment business. Not surprisingly, Rachel’s work requires her to be available 24/7; Toby’s job hours are more predictable. Therefore, he has been most invested in their children’s upbringing. The two of them have drifted apart, have separated, and are now in the process of a divorce.

Brodesser-Akner has Rachel silently dropping the two children off at their father’s apartment and then disappearing for several weeks. Toby is infuriated that he can’t get ahold of Rachel. They have joint custody and he has enjoyed his time without the children to pursue his new-found sexual freedom [the classic mid-life crisis cliché]. He has to take personal days to take care of them—which negatively impacts his professional life. [Sound familiar working women?]

In the last quarter of the book, Brodesser-Akner finally tells the reader Rachel’s story—and she is definitely ‘in trouble’. Toby is totally oblivious to Rachel’s fragile mental state. And I guess that is the author’s point—Toby doesn’t know Rachel’s inner thoughts, and Rachel doesn’t know Toby’s. The result is a total communication breakdown.
Profile Image for Neale .
292 reviews132 followers
January 6, 2020
This novel is almost like a snapshot, a section cut out of the pie graph of life. It covers the life of, predominantly Toby Fleishman and his wife Rachel and how both of their lives change after they marry and then how their lives change again after they separate.

At the beginning of the novel, they are estranged and heading towards divorce. They have joint custody of the two children. Rachel drops the children off with Toby and then effectively drops off the grid. Toby, certainly not from lack of trying, cannot find her, her secretary just gives him the run around.

As I said before this novel is like a section of Toby’s life. There is so much covered here. His obsession with sex and how easy it is in this modern world to just pick up your phone and swipe away. The problems he has looking after the kids, when he never expected to have them full time. He fields problems such as his young son watching porn on the internet, his daughter hating him for not buying her a phone. Brodesser-Akner shows she has her finger on the pulse and in touch with the zeitgeist of the times in relation to the dangers of social media. When Toby finally gives in and buys his daughter a phone before her twelfth birthday, more problems emerge when he finds out that his daughter has been coerced into sending a risqué picture of herself to a boy while she is at camp. A picture that then goes viral. All of this while performing his demanding job of a hepatologist in which lives are at stake.

It is a strange narrative style told in the third person by one of Toby’s best friends Libby. At first, I thought it may have been better narrated by Toby himself, but about three quarters of the way through the book I think that Libby narrating the story works beautifully. The last section of the book is mostly told from Rachel’s perspective, again with Libby narrating, and the shift is effortless.

This brings me back to, unless we have walked in that person’s shoes, we never really know what is going through their mind, what they are thinking, why they do what they do. And this is what made the book so special for me. How both the husband and wife assume how the other is thinking or what is driving them, when in reality, they don’t know the other as well as they think they do.

Libby, the narrator also plays an integral role. Libby is a writer who has always felt left in the shadows of the male writers she worked with at a men’s magazine. Brodesser-Akner uses Libby to broach the topic of feminism and how in most industries. it is still a man’s world, and women not treated equally. In fact, Brodesser-Akner has maybe blindsided us all with the title of this book as upon completion you may find yourself thinking more about Libby and Rachel and their perspective, their role in the novel, rather than Toby’s. A brilliant debut. 4.5 Stars.

There is a tremendously entertaining interview with Taffy Brodesser-Akner here - https://www.collinsbookblog.com/post/...
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