This novel, which is a debut by a New York Times Magazine journalist, is the perfect quarantine read. It’s so incredibly clueless, the characters are so contemptible, their problems are so ridiculous, and the author is so elitist that the whole thing ends up being a lot of fun.
Fleishman Is in Trouble is a midlife crisis novel, which already tells you that it’s going to be stupid. The characters are New Yorkers of the kind that think a yearly salary of $285,000 means a person is a total loser. The protagonist is called Toby Fleishman, and he’s the loser with the tiny $285,000 salary. As part of his midlife crisis, he gets divorced from his wife Rachel. Rachel is a victim of patriarchy that prevents her from living up to her potential and making good money. That’s why she only makes 15 (as in fifteen) times more than Toby. Which is a pittance, obviously.
The extreme suffering Rachel experiences as a woman of such a limited income living in the midst of the evilest of patriarchies is described with such earnestness one begins to suspect Brodesser-Akner was wearing her pink pussy hat while writing.
Nobody in the novel ever comes across any normal people and experiences any normal problems. This is something to be grateful for because it’s become fashionable among today’s authors to include in their novels an encounter between their ultra-sensitive patriarchy-fighting characters and evil, disgusting, flyover plebs that wounds their already strained sensibilities with its lack of appreciation for the protagonists’ suffering in the clutches of patriarchy.
If you think, however, that Toby and Rachel are the worst this novel has to offer, you’ll be mistaken. There’s also the narrator, Libby. Her entitlement and snowflakery are such that the rest of the characters look downright sweet and homey in comparison. And guess what? She’s also a victim of patriarchy.
There is no trace of irony in the treatment of these characters. This is not a parody of the elitist rich people. It’s all completely serious, and that won’t surprise you if you read The NYTimes Magazine.
The novel got nominated for a feminist award because, obviously, feminism is all about rich snowflakes and their bouts of pouting. It’s also being turned into a TV series.
The only thing that bothers me about this whole thing is that all of the characters are Jewish, and we* don’t need any more stereotyping as rich, obnoxious elitists than we already get.
Other than that, the novel is extremely enjoyable in its utter stupidity.
*I’m Jewish on my father’s side.