A good, hard look at marriage, relationships, and self-worth. Think: New York satire on top of a midlife crisis.
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The adage “there are always three sides to a story: yours, theirs, and the truth” certainly applies to the once-happy marriage of Rachel and Toby Fleishman. After working through the messy business of dividing up their Upper East Side assets and settling on a co-parenting schedule for their kids, the good Dr. Fleishman finds himself resentful and alone. Just when he thinks things can’t get any worse, his wife, from whom he is recently separated, goes missing.
Weeks pass and there is still no sign of Rachel. What kind of mother just drops off her kids, ends all contact, and never comes back?? As Toby struggles to balance work and childcare, Rachel’s version of what went wrong in their marriage begins to come to light. Is Rachel the distant and cruel wife Toby has depicted her to be? Or is she simply an ambitious, career-driven woman striving to be more than just a mother and a wife?
This is one of those stories where you think you see the ending coming and you just don’t. As I learned more of their shared past, I oscillated between feelings of frustration on Toby’s behalf and sympathy with Rachel’s struggle to define herself beyond the domestic duties the world wants her to shoulder. Fiery and sly at the same time, Fleishman Is in Trouble is an utterly thought-provoking examination of modern marriage.
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.