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Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Literary fiction

Fleishman Is in Trouble

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, on your first book!

by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

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Quick take

A good, hard look at marriage, relationships, and self-worth. Think: New York satire on top of a midlife crisis.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist

    Feminist

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Snarky

    Snarky

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MarriageIssues

    Marriage issues

Synopsis

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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Fleishman Is in Trouble.
Fleishman Is in Trouble

Part One

Fleishman Is in Trouble

Toby Fleishman awoke one morning inside the city he’d lived in all his adult life and which was suddenly somehow now crawling with women who wanted him. Not just any women, but women who were self-actualized and independent and knew what they wanted. Women who weren’t needy or insecure or self-doubting, like the long-ago prospects of his long-gone youth—meaning the women he had thought of as prospects but who had never given him even a first glance. No, these were women who were motivated and available and interesting and interested and exciting and excited. These were women who would not so much wait for you to call them one or two or three socially acceptable days after you met them as much as send you pictures of their genitals the day before. Women who were open-minded and up for anything and vocal about their desires and needs and who used phrases like “put my cards on the table” and “no strings attached” and “I need to be done in ten because I have to pick up Bella from ballet.” Women who would fuck you like they owed you money, was how our friend Seth put it.

Yes, who could have predicted that Toby Fleishman, at the age of forty-one, would find that his phone was aglow from sunup to sundown (in the night the glow was extra bright) with texts that contained G-string and ass cleavage and underboob and sideboob and just straight-up boob and all the parts of a woman he never dared dream he would encounter in a person who was three-dimensional—meaning literally three-dimensional, as in a person who wasn’t on a page or a computer screen. All this, after a youth full of romantic rejection! All this, after putting a lifetime bet on one woman! Who could have predicted this? Who could have predicted that there was such life in him yet?

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Why I love it

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.

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Member ratings (1,272)

  • Jodi F.

    Highland Park, IL

    The ending! I enjoyed the whole book but the last third was incredible. Insightful, relatable,amazing. Loved the many different perspectives. Didn’t really like any of the characters but felt them all

  • MASON C.

    Charlotte, NC

    Truly captivating and insightful. As a young woman about to get married, I felt like I was looking through the looking glass of the other side of marriage. It was extremely human and an amazing read.

  • Marissa F.

    Scranton, PA

    Not an easy read, as the characters are not meant to be like able. However the prose and the slow reveal of each character was stunning. I cried at the end & I never cry. 5 stars and a book hangover

  • Siri K.

    Los Angeles, CA

    This book is astonishingly good! The wit is searing and incisive. Without giving away ket plot points, I was surprised where my sympathies lay at the end. Amazing book. So funny! So sad! Excellent.

  • Olivia L.

    Endicott, NY

    WOW! For the authors first novel she knocked it out of the park. Each character is so relatable you find pieces of yourself throughout the book. I'm still thinking about it days after finishing it!

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