Fleishman Is in Trouble

Fleishman Is in Trouble

A Novel

Book - 2019
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Dr. Toby Fleishman wakes up each morning surrounded by women. Women who are self-actualized and independent and know what they want--and, against all odds, what they want is Toby. Who knew what kind of life awaited him once he finally extracted himself from his nightmare of a marriage? Who knew that there were women out there who would actually look at him with softness and desire? But just as the winds of his optimism are beginning to pick up, they're quickly dampened, and then extinguished, when his ex-wife, Rachel, suddenly disappears. Toby thought he knew what to expect when he moved out: weekends and every other holiday with the kids, some residual bitterness, tense co-parenting negotiations. He never thought that one day Rachel would just drop their children off at his place and never come back. As Toby tries to figure out what happened and what it means, all while juggling his patients at the hospital, his never-ending parental duties, and his new, app-assisted sexual popularity, his tidy narrative of a spurned husband is his sole consolation. But if Toby ever wants to really understand where Rachel went and what really happened to his marriage, he is going to have to consider that he might not have seen it all that clearly in the first place. A searing, funny, and electric debut from one of the most exciting writers working today, Fleishman Is In Trouble is an exploration of a culture trying to navigate the fault lines of an institution that has proven to be worthy of both our great wariness and our great optimism"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2019]
ISBN: 9780525510871
Characteristics: 373 pages ; 25 cm


Featured Blogs and Events

Adult Book Discussion: Fleishman Is in Trouble

Join West Belmont Branch for a discussion of Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a 2019 National Book Award finalist and Chicago Public Library Best of the Best selection.How to Attend This event takes place on Zoom. Register at least 24 hours before the event. Only one registration per household is needed. You’ll receive an email with a link to the secu... (more)

From Library Staff

In this page-turning, subversive debut, Brodesser-Akner introduces us to Toby Fleishman, a soon-to-be-divorced hepatologist living on Manhattan's upper-east-side. When the novel opens, Toby is disgruntled that his future ex-wife Rachel, a high-powered talent agent, has dumped the kids on him unex... Read More »

List - First Reads Recs
ChiPubLib_Adults Sep 12, 2019

"An amazing look at both modern marriage and social class. So good." - Annie

In this page-turning, subversive debut, Brodesser-Akner introduces us to Toby Fleishman, a soon-to-be-divorced hepatologist living on Manhattan's upper-east-side. When the novel opens, Toby is disgruntled that his future ex-wife Rachel, a high-powered talent agent, has dumped the kids on him unex... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
JCLJenV Jan 14, 2021

I loved this character-driven novel. The author takes a deep dive into what makes a divorce happen and life after divorce (mainly regarding sex). This book was set in New York City (always a bonus)! I found the novel hilarious and engaging.

Jan 01, 2021

One side aspect I like is showing his actual "work" -- jobs are so often brushed aside, and his is very much who he is.

It sounds like some commenters didn't finish reading the book, they've missed the point.
Why not at least read some reviews if you're not enjoying it, to get a clue that the book has a change in POV later?

Nov 16, 2020

This book packs a wallop. It’s the story of the Fleishmans, a couple who have grown apart dramatically and are in the dying stage of their marriage. Toby is a doctor, one who loves doctoring and has no interest in advancing his career (and income) toward administration. Rachel is a talent scout with a stellar client list and unlimited ambition. She makes more money; he does more of the daily care for their two children. The narrator is a woman who doesn’t really figure into the story; most of the time, I actually forgot about her and thought the narration came from Toby and/or Rachel. The first part of the book is from Toby’s point of view — his resentments of Rachel for being an absentee parent, for always putting her career first, for hungering so desperately after the trappings and status of extreme wealth. I agreed with him on everything! She’s selfish and shallow and unappreciative of his contributions to their lives. But then the second part of the book is from Rachel’s point of view. She does the research to identify the best educational and enrichment opportunities for their children, handles the scheduling and logistics of their lives, and befriends prominent and influential people; leaving just the leg-work and custodial tasks for Toby to do. She tries mightily to ensure that her children feel they “belong,” something she never felt as a child. There is an utter lack of understanding between Toby and Rachel, and this book shows how easily understanding another person — even one we love and live with — can elude us.

Oct 25, 2020

never married. 27-year-old female. LOVED this book. Found myself laughing, crying, and many more times than once saying "very true" out loud. highly recommend reading this novel if you are at all tempted, do not be scared away by any nay-sayers. I am usually a Sandra Brown/John Grisham addict and was initially hesitant to put-off one of theirs in order to read this one - no regrets! This book was amazing.

Oct 13, 2020

Reading this novel made me feel grateful to have survived 'the missing years'. The narrator makes a strong, if hyperbolic statement about middle age dating in this swipe left era. There are some great lines amid all the soft porn. The human condition is always confusing sex with love. Gradually, the focus shifts from the husband's POV to the wife's POV, and there is also some intrusion from the narrator herself. Although it is first novel, it is pretty well structured and the attention to detail about the hepatalogist's work rang true. I look forward to a second book on another subject.

Apr 06, 2020

I was so looking forward to a long great read but was very disappointed. I stopped 89 pages in because it was subsequently all about the sexual weird encounters he had since his divorce and way more detail than I EVER needed to know about. I’m not a prude but there is a line of presenting things in bad taste and a lot of these stories were. I also really grew to hate Fleishman himself. He was so passive and yet so passionate all at the same time, letting his wife trample over him and at the same time just being okay with everything that is going on is ridiculous. I really wanted to finish this but it was so awful. I don't understand why so many people loved this book.

CALS_Lee Apr 03, 2020

The first thing you'll notice is that Fleishman does not exactly appear to be in trouble as the book opens. Toby Fleishman, successful New York City doctor, early forties, is recently separated, and enjoying the myriad sexual opportunities offered to him through online dating apps. Granted, he has some of the typical difficulties with his kids, portrayed particularly amusingly through his tween daughter Hannah:

"Hannah snarled at him that he'd chosen the wrong outfit, that the leggings were for tomorrow, and so he held up her tiny red shorts and she swiped them out of his hands with the disgust of a person who was not committed to any consideration of scale when it came to emotional display."

The reader learns about Toby's marriage to Rachel, and the disappointments he had with their relationship that led to the marriage breaking up. Rachel is a talent agent who owns her own agency, working long hours and, he feels, neglecting Toby and the kids, as the book carefully notes that Rachel earns about 15 times the salary of Toby, who is on a mere $250,000 a year. Toby's resentment comes through strongly:

"Rachel knew how to work. She liked working. It made sense to her. It bent to her will and her sense of logic. Motherhood was too hard. The kids were not deferential to her like her employees. They didn't brook her temper with the desperation and co-dependence that, say, Simone, her assistant, did. That was the big difference between them, Rachel. He didn't see their children as a burden, Rachel. He didn't see them as endless pits of need, Rachel. He liked them, Rachel."

Later in the novel however, you come across a shift taking place. The novel is being told from the perspective of a college friend of Toby's, Elizabeth. She is a writer who used to work at a men's magazine. She tells us:

"That was what I knew for sure, that this was the only way to get someone to listen to a woman - to tell her story through a man; Trojan horse yourself into a man, and people would give a shit about you. So I wrote heartfelt stories about their lives, extrapolating from what they gave me and running with what I already knew from being human. They sent me texts and flowers that told me I really understood them in a way that no one had before, and I realized that all humans are essentially the same, but only some of us, the men, were truly allowed to be that without apology. The men's humanity was sexy and complicated; ours (mine) was to be kept in the dark at the bottom of the story and was only interesting in the service of the man's humanity."

And the reader realizes that Brodesser-Akner is telling us the complicated story of Rachel's humanity through Toby's story. The Fleishman in trouble is not really Toby; it is Rachel. What about Rachel. Do you want to know about her and her story?

Fleishman Is in Trouble is a smart novel that gives the reader a lot to think about by the end, but it is also a challenging read. It skewers its characters and their wealthy social set, making it more difficult to identify with any of them, be it Toby or Rachel, but it also critiques the social conditions that have led these characters there. Anger is a common theme, both of the characters, and by the end, clearly of the author herself. She is angry that women are told they are the equal of men, yet that is evidently never true, not really, and women will be punished for their choices whatever those choices are. Given the attention this novel has attracted, she has indeed hit a collective nerve.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Mar 21, 2020

Darkly funny look at middle age. Super good...wait for it...it’s kind of a slow burn to understand exactly where it’s going.

Mar 07, 2020

I struggled to get to the end of this book. There was too much angst going on for far too long! Sure, it was a perceptive exploration of the complexities and ambiguities of people and relationships but it was hard to feel much empathy for the extremely wealthy, privileged, self-absorbed and self-indulgent characters who populated this book. In the end, it just became a little too tedious.

Feb 13, 2020

Considering this is a book about dysfunctional relationships, it's only fitting that my relationship with it was so troubled. Initially, I had that dreaded "just couldn't get into it" feeling, which then changed to something different. I have certainly read some YA and children's lit as an adult but this might have been the first time I thought perhaps I'm too old for a piece of fiction. Oh, these characters were so aggravating, then fine, they all deserved each other ---- except there were children involved. Hey, you immature, stunningly self-involved adults - how about noticing the kids in the corner?

That all being said, I certainly couldn't be spilling over with all of these feelings without this book being something special. Such shrewd observations and caustic wit that skewered a certain set of people perfectly. Sort of a wild and sardonic ride until that last third blew me away and showed just how smart and talented the author was. Look at that - there's some pretty insightful heft and depth there. Maybe I'm the right age for this book after all, because everyone is.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Aug 28, 2020

toilet_face thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Apr 06, 2020

CORI D. MORRIS thinks this title is suitable for 50 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at CPL

To Top