Be a man. Never back down. Stand tall. Don’t cry. Don’t screw up.
Heaven help the men of the world.
The universe seems to take delight in giving them a load of confusion. And it’s their job to sort through their troubles, settle work and family disputes, master the art of staying strong, win back loved ones and pray that someday all the messes and mixed messages will disappear in a gigantic charge of steam.
But here’s a shocker; men get lonely. Men make mistakes. Men need other male friends. They need honest male friends and men who can lie to help lessen their pain.
Men aim for second chances when it looks hopeless. Just like Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, men can share the song’s theme, “Walk Like A Man,” in times of torture. They can walk away from hurt or simply learn to live with the outcome and begin all over again.
In “One Last Thing Before I Go,” Jonathan Tropper writes a moving novel that primarily focuses on one man’s struggle as he debates his worth and questions whether or not to get back what he has lost.
Drew Silver is the unfortunate victim and hero. He is a middle-aged Jewish man who is divorced from his wife, Denise, who claims Drew has always been a crummy husband. Denise and their cocky, outspoken teenage daughter, Casey, assure him that indeed he has always been a crummy dad. Things change, however, when Casey becomes pregnant and turns to her dad for sympathy and support.
Kicked out of home, Drew has been living at the Versailles, a once regal hotel, now gone to pot. The apartments are depressing in their own way. It is at Versailles where Drew and his divorced buddies hang around the pool, soak themselves in sorrow and booze, laugh, argue, cry and try to support one another.
It’s a harsh and lonely existence as other men separated or divorced are glum most of the time. It’s a complicated life for some men. They get to be with their kids for a weekend here and there. During this time they let their children do anything - let them devour sweets and powdered doughnuts during their visits because their moms disapprove and are strict parents - to make their kids love them.
Drew and his pals have names for some of these “losers.” Sadly, Todd is one of them. His outlook is always gloomy and he hardly ever smiles. Other men who have flabby guts and are going bald, participate in a type of sexual ritual as they watch the college girls in their skimpy swimsuits. Drew tells them it’s useless because the girls are far too young and the men are way too old for the stunning, bathing beauties.
Tropper’s novel has a dark side. It is terrifying to see how lonely these men have become. Drew feels he has lost everything - his former career as the drummer to the rock group, “The Bent Daises,” the love of his life, his daughter’s love and respect (which turns out to not be true) and worst of all, his desire to live after finding out that he has a terminal disease unless he agrees to have surgery.
Drew believes everyone would be better off if he just died.
He thinks no one would look upon him as a failure anymore and that he would spare his parents from all the past, present and future disappointments of his life. It’s sort of a game in his mind. If he dies everyone wins.
While “One Last Thing Before I Go” is full of sadness, remorse and regret, it also is very funny. Tropper has an odd way of handling sadness in an understandable, humorous fashion. It works even in the direst of circumstances.
From a female perspective, Tropper convinced me that men do lead uncomfortable, ironic, sensitive and valuable lives. Not every woman would agree with Tropper’s assessments, contradictions or his excessive use of foul language. However, some women like myself, would appreciate Tropper’s insight to how many men strive to be themselves in a world that has unnecessarily dictated, for too long, what it means to “be a man.”