Wherever You Go, There They Are
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.
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 a reincarnation of the Russian princess, Anastasia. A family of bootleggers, gamblers, and philanderers, the Gurwitches have always been a bit vague on the standard 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. One day, unfortunately, Gurwitch woke up to realize that she'd made similar, if not the same, mistakes as everyone else before her--just in a new zip code. Wherever she went, there they were.
With her wry wit and hard-learned wisdom, Gurwitch explores the inescapable, yet rewarding, realities of life with her relatives and her southern Jewish roots, as well as her flirtation with surrogate families including theater folk, pet people, the sisterhood, and the ladies who brunch at Tel Aviv Gardens Retirement Home in Miami, Florida. She's learned that for better or for worse (you can guess which) it's worth celebrating the traditions, rituals, and recipes that come with a shared mythology and legacy, even if her own inheritance amounts to a small plot of land split between five relatives on an ill-fated sliver of sand known as Massacre Island.
Written with haunting detail, poignant family moments, laugh out loud comedy and social commentary, Gurwitch delivers a provocative treatise on the importance and insanity of family. 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
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.