Think you’ve got it bad? Drew Silver, the middle-aged no-hoper at the center of Jonathan Tropper’s latest novel, might be the most pathetic man in New York State. Once the drummer for a momentarily famous rock band, he’s now a total loser — overweight, unloved, wasting his days inside a grim apartment complex inaptly named the Versailles. His ex-wife and teen daughter can’t stand him. His career is in the crapper. His life is defined by failure, regret, inertia, despair, and a crushing, all-consuming loneliness.
Oh, and he’s also dying. Silver has a tear in his aorta, which is setting off little strokes that cause increasingly unpredictable symptoms and will inevitably kill him. The end could come at any moment, and while surgery would save his life, Silver has decided to skip it because, well, he can’t think of a single decent reason to keep going.
By this point you’ve probably stopped reading and wandered off to stick your head in the oven. But for anyone still here, now might be a good time to mention that One Last Thing Before I Go is hilarious. Like Tropper’s exceptional last novel, This Is Where I Leave You, it’s a heartfelt look at irreparable mistakes and damaged masculinity that balances its bleak circumstances with dark humor. And Silver’s not a total lost cause. His health crisis leads to some hard thinking, and at one point he dashes off a to-do list: Be a better father. Be a better man. Fall in love. Die. Can he pull off the first three before succeeding at the fourth? The answer is a bit predictable, and the comedy is occasionally a little broad. But if One Last Thing doesn’t match This Is Where I Leave You’s gut-punch exploration of family and failure, it’s still a bristling, witty tale of woe that’ll make you appreciate whatever good things, no matter how few, have come your way. A-