Drew Silver, the protagonist of One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper, is a screw up. His ex-wife thinks so. His 18-year-old daughter thinks so. The other divorced men he’s friends with think so. I thought he was kind of a screw up, too. He’s an endearing screw-up, if that makes any sense.
Silver was in a rock band 15 years ago that produced a mega one hit wonder. Now he lives in The Versailles, a run down apartment building where divorced and depressed men go after leaving their families. He still plays the drums at weddings, bat mitzvahs, and sweet 16 birthday parties. Sometimes he’s recognized (Hey, you were in that band that had that song!) but he mostly lives a dull existence. Sometimes he goes home with one of the back-up singers in the wedding band. Most of the time he goes home alone.
He has no relationship with his daughter Casey, having kind of given up being a father after realizing he’s complete crap at it. He still loves his ex-wife Denise. She still hates him.
One day while hanging out by the pool at The Versailles, Silver’s daughter Casey drops a bomb on him: she’s pregnant. He doesn’t understand why she’s come to him when he’s been an absent father all her life. Maybe she’s giving him a chance to redeem himself. She’s about to head to college in the fall and Baby on Board is not what she had planned. She wants him to take her to get an abortion. Casey refuses to tell her mother mainly because Denise is getting remarried in a couple of weeks and is in full Bride Mode: she can’t see anything unless it’s about her wedding.
Silver and Casey are in the waiting room of the abortion clinic when Silver’s life really goes down the tubes. He blacks out. He thinks he’s died. He can hear his daughter’s voice shouting at him as he fades away. She hasn’t sounded that scared since she was a child. He wakes up in the hospital and is told that he has to have heart surgery to repair a defect or he will die. The doctor who wants to perform the surgery? His ex-wife’s fiancé. Awkward.
Silver decides against the surgery which almost made me stop reading until I understood why he decides against it. He thinks he’s a piece of…work, if you get my drift. He believes he’s no good to anyone and no one wants him around so death is a better option than hanging around The Versailles for the next 40 years where the college girls around the pool never age but the heartbroken men who live there do.
Silver doesn’t seem to understand a few things: his daughter wants him around. His parents want him around. Denise wants him around. Even her fiancé the surgeon wants him around (he’s one of those obnoxious people who sees the good in everyone). But Silver is adamant that he’d rather die.
But he seems to have forgotten how persuasive families can be. He gets in a fist fight with his brother because his brother wants him to have the surgery. His rabbi father goes Old Testament on him to try to change his mind. His mother pulls the ultimate Mom Card of “I’m very disappointed in you.”
And you know where this is going, right? I’m not ruining anything here. You kind of know he’s going to have the surgery. Although there were a few pages there I thought “This guy’s actually going to die on purpose”. By the end of the book he finally sees the light (and no, it’s not the Other Side) and finds out what he has to live for.
If I took anything away from this book (besides laughing my head off because Jonathan Tropper is one funny dude) it’s the simple and sappy message of let people love you. That’s it. Those that care if you breathe or not are the most important ones and you have to let them care if you breathe or not. And let’s face it, when we feel at our most unlovable, that’s when people come swooping in with their wonderfully annoying unconditional love.