FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

From the Jacket

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 just 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.  The winds of his optimism, long dormant, had finally begun to pick up.  Now this.

As Toby tries to figure out where Rachel went, all while juggling his patients at the hospital, his never-ending parental duties, and his new app-assisted sexual popularity, his tidy narrative of the spurned husband with the too-ambitious wife is his sole consolation.  But if Toby ever wants to truly understand what happened to Rachel and what happened to his marriage, he is going to have to consider that he might not have seen things all that clearly in the first place.

My Thoughts

Here I am, finally reading FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE six months after everyone else!  I was ecstatic to find this one under the tree last month (thanks Santa!), and I picked it up not too late after Christmas morning.  I’m always extremely anxious when reading well-regarded books like FLEISHMAN, so I’m thrilled to announce I loved this book just as I was hoping!

“A wife isn’t like an ultra-girlfriend or a permanent girlfriend.  She’s an entirely new thing.  She’s something you made together, with you as an ingredient.  She couldn’t be the wife without you.”

FLEISHMAN is a real tornado of a book: powerful, unexpected, and full of twists and turns.  I literally could not stop turning the pages; it’s one of those books I read while walking from room to room around my house just because I wanted to sneak in an extra page or two.  I never expected a divorce story would be so engaging!

For me, the real star of Brodesser-Akner’s novel is the narration: unique and truthful with a hint of snark.  Akner does a phenomenal job of describing her characters’ inner thoughts, which is absolutely the reason why I fell in love with this book.  The novel is “narrated” by Toby’s friend Libby in the first person, though it mostly reads like third person from Toby’s, and later Rachel’s, perspectives.  Akner interjects herself directly into her own novel in the form of Libby, a journalist living in Jersey; she is the mediary, the non-partisan narrator.  This way, Akner is able to show how two-sided every relationship is (especially in marriage!).  Reading Toby’s side makes Rachel look like a horrible wife and mother until Libby explains Rachel’s story, and then Toby looks like a jerk.

“Whatever kind of woman you are, even when you’re a lot of kinds of women, you’re still always just a woman, which is to say you’re always a little bit less than a man.”

I cannot recommend FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE enough!  It’s a surprisingly fast-paced and exciting read, told with brilliantly truthful and humorous narration.  Believe the hype on this one.

Further Reading

Video: “Taffy Brodesser-Akner in Conversation with Emma Straub,” Books Are Magic
Podcast: “Everyone is Getting Divorced,” The Cut on Tuesdays
Podcast: “Taffy Brodesser-Akner Talks About Her First Novel,” The Book Review


  1. Literary Elephant

    Great review! I wasn’t initially interested in the premise of this one, but after seeing it listed for the National Book Award I’ve been more curious. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it so much, maybe I’ll give it a try after all!

    Liked by 1 person

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