“One Last Thing Before I Go” quick, humorous read, but not Pulitzer-worthy

Juhie Modi

In “One Last Thing Before I Go,” directly after the protagonist Drew Silver chooses to opt out of a life-saving surgery, there are only four things on his to-do list: be a better father, be a better man, fall in love and die.

Author Jonathan Tropper flexes his famous wit by humorously tracing the inner dialogues and uncomfortable truths of a middle-aged, self-proclaimed failure, Drew Silver. Some believe that the book, which was well received by The New York Times and other critics, will be considered for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. 

Silver is the drummer of a one-hit wonder band that has since split up. After divorcing his ex-wife and disappointing his now pregnant teenage daughter, Casey, he accepts that he leads a dull and substandard life and “as always, tries like hell not to panic.”  

That pitiful life of late consists of paid masturbation in the name of science, poolside gawking at college women and playing at Bar Mitzvahs, so it should come as no surprise to the reader that the book opens with a panging sentiment that Silver’s life “isn’t necessarily worth living when you’ve been doing it as poorly as he has.” 

However, Silver is determined to try to turn his life around.

But because of a mini-stroke caused by his fatal heart condition and the stress of taking his daughter to an abortion clinic, Silver is unable to help himself from blurting out his most inner thoughts. This creates diverting and surprisingly introspective soliloquies that unintentionally turn into conversations. The dialogue in “One Last Thing Before I Go,” which sometimes comprises total chapters without description, allows Tropper to hilariously capture the reader and characters’ essences. This is where Tropper shines the brightest.

Silver’s family loves him despite his best efforts and Tropper succeeds in allowing the reader to sympathize with Silver with occasional glimpses into the woman he used to love, who is about to marry a world class surgeon. “He doesn’t so much fall in love as dive-bomb it like a kamikaze pilot, fearless and at full throttle.” The anecdotes are an effective means of demonstrating that amidst all of the disheartening and crude sexual episodes, Silver is redeemable and capable of being loved. 

There are other small things that make Silver charming: how he feels “ridiculously overjoyed” when Casey doesn’t cringe outwardly when he pecks her cheek, how he stalks a singer of kid songs in a bookstore for weeks because he thinks that her singing voice is beautiful and how he often goes into deeply existential struggles in his mind with life’s unanswerable questions. 

But somehow, it isn’t enough. The reader doesn’t root for Silver to step up to the plate, be a better person and live. The book is one predictable plot twist after another, too long with the ever-present question of whether Silver will get the life-saving surgery or not. Although the book is a quick, amusing read and Tropper is undoubtedly a witty writer, perhaps the book was meant more as a screenplay — J.J. Abrams is already attached to a film adaptation. 

Throughout the book, the reader gets restless and anticipates that one last piece of literary fulfillment before Silver finally goes. Like Tropper’s Pulitzer, even at the end, the reader is doubtful of whether it will ever come.