Wherever You Go, There They Are by Annabelle Gurwitch

Wherever You Go, There They Are

Annabelle Gurwitch

Wherever You Go, There They Are is a must-read for anyone who's even occasionally been frustrated by the people they share carbohydrate-laden meals with every year.

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A hysterically funny and slyly insightful new collection of essays from New York Times bestselling author Annabelle Gurwitch, about her own family of scam artists and hucksters, as well as the sisterhoods, temporary tribes, communities, and cults who have become surrogates along the way.

When Annabelle Gurwitch was a child, surrounded by a cast of epically dysfunctional relatives, she secretly prayed that it was all a terrible mistake. Maybe she was a long-lost daughter of Joni Mitchell or the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian princess. A family of bootleggers, gamblers, and philanderers, the Gurwitches have always been a bit vague on the ideal of a loving and supportive family. Their definition includes people you can count on to borrow money from, hold a grudge against, or blackmail. Thus began a lifetime of Annabelle seeking out surrogates. If she’s learned anything, it’s that no matter how hard you try to escape a crazy family, you just end up in another crazy family.
 
With a wry wit and healthy dose of irresistible self-deprecation, Gurwitch asks: Who and what makes a family in our modern society? Is it our blood relations, the people we work with, the people we pray with, our pets? Gurwitch delves into her Shalom Y'all tribe's southern Jewish roots, along with the confederacies she’s joined by accident or on purpose, and treats us to a glimpse of life with theater folk, a band of cosplaying Furries, pet people, a UFO cult, and secular humanist fellowships while exploring the fragility of sisterhood and the spec­tacularly daunting search for the community where her aging parents will spend the last chapter of their lives.
 
By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Wherever You Go, There They Are is a must-read for anyone who’s even occasionally been frustrated by the people they share carbohydrate-laden meals with every year.


Advance Galley Reviews

Why did I keep reading? The answer is because clearly, I'm a bit masochistic. I have a strong opinion that while the occasional footnote is appropriate, if you use too many, you need to edit what you are writing. Gurwitch doesn't just use them a little too much; on each page of the book there was at least one, if not two of three. Realistically, I also couldn't relate to much of her stories, which only made it more difficult to continue reading.

The story of Wherever You Go, There They Are by Annabelle Gurwitch is really more like wherever you go and whatever you do, they may or may not be there, but the legacy of them that you carry within you will always be. They, of course, are your family. The overall tone of the essays is conversational, making the book an easy and quick read. As is the case in all collections, some essays appeal to me more than others. Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2017/05/wherever-you-go-there-they-are.html. Reviewed for the Penguin First to Read program.

Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read this book in advance. I had a hard time with this book. It made me unofficially vow to stop reading autobiographies of people I've never heard of, because this is the second time in a row I've been disappointed, but I know I'll keep on. I don't know if it was my frame of mind at the time, but I read the first 20 or so pages and was just utterly confused to the point of annoyance. I couldn't understand why this woman was acting so nuts and lying to her child about having a sister and pretending the sister was actually in the form of their cat, but she was away at boarding school. I had to start over. I took a break from it, and started again the next day, and I finally started to understand and piece the craziness together. I still don't understand why she would lie to her son about having a cat sister, but that's not my problem. At least I got a hang of the general feel of the book and the author this time round. That said, I couldn't bring myself to really like the author all that much. She says some really cringe-y things that I understand are meant to be humorous, but to me a lot of it came off just uncomfortable and a little trying-too-hard. An example: about a third of the way in, Gurwitch brings up the story of a Syrian refugee family that had their kitten with them, and she writes, "After all, they loved their darling kitten, Zaytouna - "Olive" - so much that they must be good people. Lest we forget, Lenin was famously a cat lover." I don't understand the purpose of this little jab. Is she trying to insult the fleeing Syrian couple and their love of their family pet? Maybe this isn't a jab and is actually a compliment somehow? My Russian Revolutionary history is not that sharp, but I just didn't see the purpose here of including this anecdote. (If someone would like to educate me, by all means, please do. Seriously.) She is also of the 'pets are not family' variety, which is fine, but I'm of the 'pets are superior to humans in every possible way, all of which are innocent babies and should be treated and spoiled as such' variety, so. Just a personal thing but it put a somewhat sour taste in my mouth as I continued reading. Besides her humor being a little put-on for me, I also just plainly didn't believe a lot of the stories she told. The adult camp scenario was too ridiculous and bizarre to a) take seriously; and b) believe. The conversations she purported to have with the camp leaders called "Huggy Bear" and "Mellow Out" felt exaggerated, at best. Never happened, at worst. Mellow Out tells her that humans have been alive since the dinosaurs, and Gurwitch replies defiantly, (fair enough, I would have said something too in a ready-to-argue manner), "Excuse me, so you're saying that the fossil records, as interpreted through radiometric dating, a scientific practice accepted across the globe, are incorrect?" She didn't say that. She's not a scientist, and never claims to have any interest in any type of scientific field. So I should take her at her word that she said something so wildly educated and well-researched, on the spot, to someone with a fake name who was probably on shrooms? Hardly. Sorry, I just couldn't buy into it, real or not. Then it goes from ridiculous to utterly depressing and sad, as she begins to care for her aging parents. I liked her most here, even if she did paint a horrifying picture of old age and dying. She was the most real here, for me. It was a little too real, as her reality is something I fear I too will deal with in the (hopefully not too near) future. Really depressing way to end the book. I guess from here it's obvious I didn't enjoy this book much. I giggled every so often, so credit where it's due, Gurwitch is indeed funny at times. But overall, I was left disappointed, sad and a little more annoyed than I thought I signed up for.

Wherever You Go There They Are was a fast and fun read. I felt like I was having a personal conversation with the author as she moved from story to story about her complicated relationships with family and friends. I was particularly interested in her experiences as part of a Southern Jewish culture that is rarely described in books. The narrative is non-linear and like reading a kaleidoscope of life.

I am a huge fan of the humor genre, but frankly I don't think "Wherever You Go, There They Are" fits in it. I didn't find Gurwitch's book to be either hilarious or deeply moving. In fact, I kept leaving at the end of chapters to read another book in the meantime, as Gurwitch's did not hold my attention well. Unfortunately, I don't recommend it.

Summary:        Annabelle's back with her sly wit and sassy ways to tell us all about her family of scam artists, as well as the sundry sisterhoods, tribes, cults and communities that have been as dear.  We have adorable (and hilarious) stories about pet people, Dad's big money making ideas, and Annabelle's dreams of being adopted into a "normal" family along with many more. My Thoughts:        I first fell in love with Gurwitch when I read I See You've Made an Effort.  It was candid, hilarious, and well written.  I felt like I was sitting in a living room somewhere, talking to her... listening to her stories.  This book gave the same vibe with amazing insights into some really amazing characters- her family and friends.  I found myself nodding along with her talk of "pet people" (I myself am one, but I don't Photoshop Sassy Britches' photos), trying to figure out who was Grandma Rebecca's favorite, and a dozen other stories.  The family members are brought to life with Annabelle's candid stories.  I adored reading about them!  Five Stars!             On the adult content scale, there is language, drugs and the odd con.  I would give it a six.

Wherever You Go There They Are. I have an amazing, crazy, and hilariously dysfunctional family, so I went into this book expecting something similar to the over-the-top zany stories that my family tells. You know, the types of things that make you laugh so hard you wet your panties while you are simultaneously praying that God really keeps looking after those you love but cannot help. We may laugh but we laugh so that we don't cry. The love behind the laughter is deep. I did not like this book. I found Gurwitch to be snarky, darling, sarcastic and felt that there was a level of self indulgence in her storytelling, akin to saying, 'Can you believe I actually came from these lunatics?' I also found the flow of the book to be very disordered, jumping from subject to subject in a random way. There were a few amusing anecdotes but they did not salvage the book. I forced myself to finish the book and cannot recommend it.

This was an interesting read. I don't read much nonfiction, but I found myself enjoying the stories. A lot of people can relate to these essays, and I've found that some of my family members have similar quirks. I'm a fan of sarcastic humor, and this book held my attention. I found myself laughing at some of the situations. Overall good read.

Have you had a parent who withheld the fact that you inherited part of an island until that island is getting pummeled by a hurricane? Do you have ancestors who supplied sugar to moonshiners or who ran a brothel? Have you ever told your son that the cat is actually his younger sister whose cat costume zipper got stuck and then overgrown with hair? If you have, then you must be Annabelle Gurwitch.  The actor, writer, comedian, and former cohost of TBS's Dinner and Movie is back with a book of personal essays that take a skewering look at one of the things we all laugh and cry about: family. While regaling us with stories of her own families and tribes (ie theatre people), she also brings us back to our own homes to consider the love and laughs under our own roof.  Wherever You Go, There They Are is a laugh-out-loud punch in the gut of everything that is best and most frustrating about those we are closest to. Annabelle Gurwitch's honest, revealing personal memories make this story collection a down-to-earth, warm, wonderful, moving, funny celebration of family, of those who came before to lead the way and those who follow us around asking for food, binkies, money, and the car keys.  A little bit Nora Ephron, a little bit Mary Roach, Gurwitch's humor makes you feel like you're sitting and listening to a good friend over coffee or cocktails. Her openness is compelling, her authenticity is magnetic, and reading her book just makes you feel good. Wherever You Go, There You Are has helped remind me of my love for good female humor writing, instilled in me when I raided my own mother's bookshelf when I was a kid and first discovered Erma Bombeck.  And just in case you wondered, Moo Goo Gai Pan was a swashbuckling pirate with adventures that rival any comic book superhero. At least, that's what Annabelle's dad says.  Galleys were provided by the publisher through FirstToRead.com.

Annabelle Gurwitch has a dysfunctional family--a pretty impressively strange one of "bootleggers, gamblers, and philanderers." She tried to escape her roots, and then she discovered that she carries her family with her wherever she is. From trying to form bonds with pets like certified pet people, to the hustle and bustle of the theater crowd, and the sisterhood, including those who sell make up and the like to their friends, among others, she tries to connect with new groups, leading to some humorous adventures and wry observations. Some moments are light--communing with cats and attending an adult camp with nicknames and no clocks--and others are deeper--exploring her family roots and culture, discussing the probably fate of a slice of an island already being swallowed by the sea. Though your family might not resemble hers much, there's still something you're likely to recognize in the book--and probably elicit a smile or two. Family is, in the end, a peculiar and changeable thing, different for everyone, but also the same. A funny, easy read.

A quirky, funny bunch of essays that are easily read and enjoyed. As a Southern Belle, I had a great laugh reading the story about when she went down to Mobile, AL to hang out with her Southern family. I also loved the stories about people that make their pets more important than their children. Thanks to First to Read for the chance to read this!

I didn't really enjoy this book. She really rambles - there were times when I thought I had maybe missed a page the subject changed so quickly. I found that very distracting.

Earlier this year I read Gurwitch's "I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50" which I found fun, interesting and informative (as I dance close to that edge myself). I was able to snag a copy of Gurwitch's "Wherever You Go, There They Are" via Penguin's First Reads program. Gurwitch is an excellent writer. She is funny, can set a scene and can really give you a sense of place and character without being painfully Dickensian about it. When I read her stories about her family, I am a little chagrined by my own family's boringness. We didn't invest in Ponzi schemes, be on the lam from various law-enforcement agencies, brew bathtub gin, or have any of another million crazy adventures that Gurwitch's family did. It almost becomes unbelievable at some point. But, underneath the tales of derring-do are wonderful characters and emotion-rich moments. A very good read.

Annabelle Gurwitch lays it all out for you in Wherever You Go There You Are. Her strange past, eccentric family, odd personal relationships, weird circumstances like the adult summer camp, achievements and stumbles are all mixed together in this poignant but comical memoir. Her spin on how family bonds can drive you, support you, destroy you, and make you run , shows how family creates you and shapes all that you do and are. By taking the uncomfortable topics of her life from her dads shady business deals, to her families struggles in the south as Jewish immigrants Gurwitch brings forth the importance of family and love as well as humor in life. The dark humor, sarcasm, and snarky portrayal of everything in her story helped tie it together and make if far to relatable. I was surprised at the depth in the end in how she related to her parents failing health after all their other failures and how touching it was. Overall it was well worth the read but fair warning it is not all humor but shows lives balance.

While many celebrities toss the fruits of their public lives into a blender with some how-I-got-here substance to yield a smoothie-like memoir--a pleasant enough refresher but not worthy of an Instagram, Annabelle Gurwitch creates a delightfully colourful parfait. I dug into this confection with elan, enjoying it's fluffiness, laughing at the fruits and nuts of family, and amused by the rainbow-sprinkley footnotes. About a third of the way through, I slowed to savour its complex textures, the deft layering of sweet with bitter, and Gurwitch's pinch of salt to keep it from becoming cloying. "Wherever You Go, There They Are" is rich and deeply satisfying. Spoon drop.

Gurwitch comes from an eccentric family and has had some interesting experiences. Not quite laugh-out-loud funny, but interesting. However, the last few chapters about her parents adjusting to an assisted living facility are hilarious! Her dad, "Handsome Harry" is a flawed man in his youth, but those flaws become an endearing quality as an aged man. Gurwitch takes some uncomfortable topics in her life and adds just enough humor that we can all try to relate.

I thought these stories were interesting. It's a sort of memoir about the author's family with such tales as finding out she inherited part of an island, but her family didn't tell her for years, going through the steps of deciding which assisted living home her parents will move into and how she grew up. I didn't relate to most of it since her show business world is quite a bit different from mine in the midwest, but it was a decent read.

I think I may have found a kindred spirit in Annabelle. I loved this book much more than I was expecting to (after not finishing I say Tomato, you say Shut Up -- BUT I might give it another chance now). I love how well read she is and connects the books back to the discussion. After reading this, I feel that she and I would get along! I loved the camping chapter (sriracha - Sir Acha) and have thought how awesome it would be to go back to camp as an adult! The price of sisterhood is spot on! and the best of all homes with the following tale of her parents aging is relate-able and haunting. If you secretly harbor (or not so secretly harbor) any quantity of snark, you will love this book. I am currently reading other celebrity autobiographic/family life books and this one quickly pulled out ahead. Thoroughly enjoyed!

I'm not usually a fan of stories that jump around, but found this one to be endearing. I love dark humor and sarcasm. The way the stories jumped topics made it hard for me to get through the book. Overall a decent read, but I'll probably go back to novels with a plot and sequence to it.

"Looking around, it dawns on me that we're not the next generation of the family: we're the elders now. Our parents are failing, if not dead already, and we will need to remember them to each other." I received a copy of this ebook from firsttoread.com in exchange for an honest review. While the premise of this book intrigued me, I didn't love it like I expected to. I think my biggest problem is it felt like the essays were forced together without any kind of theme or narrative. One minute we're reading a childhood anecdote and the next about an ailing parent with pictures in between. That being said I liked the dark humor and some of the stories. It just wasn't anything super original that blew me away.

Reading this book feels like chatting over coffee and cake with a new acquaintance and walking away with a friend who overshares in the funniest way possible. A collection of essays on her life and family, it feels a bit random at times but helped foster the conversational feel of the book. Like any good conversation, it rambles somewhat and repeats itself a couple of times while keeping a light tone overall. Even when the topic is something as heavy as parental aging and sickness. It's not laugh-out-loud funny, but it definitely earns some good chuckles. Particularly if you come from a big, crazy family and can relate to Gurwitch's experiences.

Annabelle Gurwitch has looked at other families’ mottos and mission statements, and has decided hers should be: “In our family, no one can hear you scream”. It comes early in her new book, Wherever You Go, There They Are, and sets you up for a rollercoaster of family stories. Gurwitch is all about sarcasm and mild exasperation, and her stories paint a false but entertaining picture covering up her love for everyone. It’s not nearly the horror of some families, but when told properly – as by Gurwitch – it can be hilarious: “For some people, ‘family’ means people who you don’t mind seeing your dirty dishes and unmade beds. In my family, it means you must scour your home for days before inviting them in or they will embarrass you by cleaning it themselves in front of you.” The first story, the setup, is by far the best. She develops her characters and relationships, and lets them loose on the world. Unfortunately, she seems to run out of material early, and several essays have nothing to do with her family being there at all. She takes herself to an adult summer camp in northern California. She investigates multilevel marketing scams where women sell each other (mostly) cosmetics they don’t need, for essentially no profit to themselves. And she checks out life in an agnostic church. But she does it with panache, sarcasm and eventual self-awareness – her trademarks - so it’s worthwhile. Gurwitch makes massive use of footnotes, editorial comments really, one or two pretty much every page. They could have been just as effective in brackets in the text. On Kindles, it’s a real pain to scroll down to them, usually for very little payoff, and then scroll back to where you left off if you can find it. The worst is when they continue to the bottom of the next page. But all humorous essayists seem to want to do it these days. It’s the fashion of the era, apparently. Too bad for the reader. Gurwitch turns out to be a caring, compassionate being, whose genetic makeup brings out the lying fabulist of the past (at least) two generations of Gurwitches. She puts it to fine use. David Wineberg

 


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