One Last Thing Before I Go, is like that sad, too-self-deprecating friend everyone has, who, despite the fact that he depresses you to no end, you still hang out with him because he's entertaining as hell. It's a bit of a departure from Tropper's first five novels — which are usually crackling with one-liners and populated by dudes getting wantonly laid without trying too hard.
Indeed, One Last Thing Before I Go is Tropper's most melancholic novel. While still often funny and with much of Tropper's signature dude-humor, its main goal really seems to be to explore how badly beaten you have to be to decide you'd rather not live anymore. That's the decision our protagonist, 44-year-old Silver, makes. Silver, a former drummer in a one-hit-wonder rock band called The Bent Daisies, has been divorced for seven years, and his ex-wife is about to marry a rich, handsome doctor. Also, his 18-year-old daughter Casey is pregnant, and only decides to tell Silver because she's not-at-all worried about letting him down.
So when Silver winds up in the hospital with a rare heart condition — which a simple surgery will solve — Silver declines to be operated on, deciding instead to put his affairs in order as best he can, and wait for death's call.
But something odd happens on the way to the grave. "Silver doesn't really know how to explain it. It's like he's been inexpertly rewired. Signals are being mixed, relays being tripped, power surging and waning, and he's acting on impulses before he knows he has them."
When you've got nothing to lose, you live your life like losing doesn't matter. And so the rest of the novel follows Silver around as he speaks his mind (sometimes when he doesn't even realize he's talking out loud) and tries to make amends to his wounded family. Will he be able to rescue himself from his family's ire? Will he screw things up worse than they already are? Will he finally decide to have the surgery that'll save his life?
Tropper's one of my favorite writers — he's always fun to read because he says things in ways that make you wish you'd had his sentences in your arsenal of witty repartee when goofing off with your buddies at the bar. (Example: "The doctor who tells him he is going to die is the same man who will be marrying his ex-wife in two and a half weeks, which is either poetically just, or at least the sort of karmic fart that is emblematic of his life these days.)
But One Last Thing Before I Go strays into the cliché a few too many times to elevate it into the top tier of Tropper novels. There's actually a scene where Silver grabs a microphone at a Bat Mitzvah and professes his apologies and love for his daughter in front of all the guests. You could almost feel a John Hughes "slow-clap" coming on. And all the divorced dudes live in a converted hotel called The Versailles, which is reminiscent of "Casa Nova: A Transitional Place for Singles" from The Simpsons. There's others, too, which I can't tell you about without spoiling.
Still, only-okay Tropper is great reading. So four stars.