Drew Silver--just "Silver" to nearly everyone, including his ex-wife, his semi-estranged daughter, and his own parents--has been physically and emotionally stuck for the better part of a decade, since the breakups of both his band and his marriage. When he's the first to be told by his daughter Casey--just graduated from high school as class valedictorian--that she's pregnant, no one's more surprised than he is, unless it's her. But the bigger surprise is that when he accompanies her to a clinic for what should be a fairly simple procedure, he's the one who ends up in the hospital. Tests after a small stroke reveal an aortic tear--a life-threatening condition, but at a stage where it can easily be fixed by surgery. But Silver doesn't want it fixed--he's screwed up enough, and all he wants is time to fix his relattionship with Casey before he makes his exit.
The father-daughter relationship is the central one in One Last Thing Before I Go, and it's a messy, complicated, ultimately endearing one. Silver believes Casey is a much better child than he deserves--she's clearly not perfect, but on balance, he's probably right about that, although their simultaneous crises are providing plenty of opportunities for him to make things up to her. His efforts to do that, fumbling as some of them are, were what eventually won me over. Silver has a massive self-pitying streak and was clearly suffering from untreated depression even before he accepted a probable death sentence; both are understandable, but as much as I wanted to sympathize, there were stretches of the novel where I found it pretty difficult.
In fact, what stands out to me about One Last Thing... is that it was a funny novel that made me feel profoundly sad for its characters at least as much as it tickled me. I didn't find it funny in the same way as This Is Where I Leave You; while it does have a few strong set pieces, much of its humor is wry, observational, and tinged with a very dark edge. It suits the material, but it wasn't quite what I expected. And I definitely did not expect to be moved nearly to tears, but I was, and more than just once or twice. That response made me question whether Tropper might actually be off his game; I was well into the novel before I decided that he was he very much ON it, and playing it very well.
I usually write up my thoughts on a book as soon as possible after I finish it, but it took several days before I was ready to do that with One Last Thing Before I Go. I didn't expect to be so affected by it, but I'm so glad I was. Not only is Jonathan Tropper on his game here, he's raised the stakes; this may be his richest novel yet, and I think it may end up as one of my favorite reads of the year.