Illustrations: Andrea Chronopoulos

Welcome to the New Midlife Crisis

The novel ‘Fleishman Is in Trouble’ is one of a slew of new books examining our generation’s particular iteration of the midlife crisis

Corinne Purtill
Published in
11 min readNov 22, 2019

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LLike everyone on my Twitter feed, I recently read (and loved) Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s novel of midlife marital strife, Fleishman Is in Trouble. It was as good as everyone said it was: the murderously sharp observations, the nuanced characters, and what anthropologists should one day recognize as a near-complete catalogue of women’s workout tank-top slogans in the early 21st century.

I read it on my Kindle, which tallies the number of fellow readers who have highlighted certain passages of a book. In Fleishman, these highlights tell their own story of a readership more than a little familiar with the existential angst of middle age.

Like this one, on page 13:

“How miserable is too miserable?” (164 highlighters)

Or here on page 25:

“It was that he couldn’t bear to be with anyone who didn’t yet truly understand consequences, how the world would have its way with you despite all your careful life planning. There was no way to learn that until you lived it. There was no way for any of us to learn that until we lived it.” (312 highlighters)

Or this, ominously, on page 36:

“And in our laughter we heard our youth, and it is not not a dangerous thing to be at the doorstep to middle age and at an impasse in your life and to suddenly be hearing sounds from your youth.” (359 highlighters)

Fleishman is one of a slew of new books examining our generation’s particular iteration of the midlife crisis, and I’ve read a lot of them, from MIT philosophy professor Kieran Setiya’s Midlife: A Philosophical Guide to therapist Daphne de Marneffe’s The Rough Patch: Midlife and the Art of Living Together. Ada Calhoun’s popular 2017 Oprah.com article on the subject will be a book soon. The writer Rachel Syme went mildly viral when she tweeted recently that “every woman I know who is 35ish is having some sort of low-level crisis.”

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Corinne Purtill
Writer for

Journalist with words at Time, Quartz, and elsewhere. Author of Ghosts in the Forest, a Kindle Single.