Monday, September 12, 2011

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant weaves together three individuals whose lives become entangled in the volatile climate of Israeli society. Yona travels to Israel to try to mend things with her sister, estranged for over ten years, a woman whose life has become the polar opposite of her own. Meanwhile Mark travels back to New York City, the place where he was saved from drugs by his faith, from Jerusalem, to give lectures on the Talmud, trying to ignore the sensation that what he is speaking about isn't what he believes anymore. Finally, Aaron is a college dropout who has a famous writer for a father but can't seem to find a place he belongs so he quits school during his year-abroad and joins an extreme Israeli fringe group. Yona, Mark and Aaron are tied together by the impact faith and Judaism will have on their lives, changing them forever in a moment that can never be undone.

Wherever You Go is the debut novel from Leegant, but it is filled with a wisdom and maturity that is far from amateur. It's an intelligent book, and despite it's slender size- under 300 pages- it is certainly not a light read. The reader is instantly sucked into a rich and vibrant world, beautiful yet violent, three lives teetering on the edge of breaking. Wherever You Go is incredibly powerful, beautiful, well written, and absolutely horrifying at the same time. Two weeks after finishing it I'm still unable to get it out of my mind. The stories it tells are both unique- I've never read anything like it before- and extremely relevant. Leegant has her finger on the pulse of Israeli society and takes the reader into this foreign yet fascinating environment with skill of an insider, unsurprising considering she spends part of her time living in Israel while teaching there.

All the reasons that Wherever You Go is upsetting are the same reasons it is such an important book. Normally when I read a book which follows the narrative of multiple characters I find myself more enchanted by one storyline and impatient for my "favourite" character to return to centre stage. In this case, all three stories are not only absolutely riveting, but definitely distinct from each other as well, three separate voices that at no point become muffled together. I only wished that a little more time had been spent with the characters near the ending; possibly it is my own desire for closure but the conclusion felt slightly rushed. Perhaps being Jewish myself biased me when deciding to pick up Wherever You Go, but regardless of the reader's faith- if any-  the novel offers complex characters as well as a thought-provoking narrative and compelling setting.

My biggest complaint? That Leegant's work isn't more widely available, I had to special order her first book An Hour in Paradise, which is a collection of short stories, from the States. Fortunately, I know it'll be worth the wait. I'll also be certain to pre-order whatever Leegant publishes next and if there's a smile on my face when it arrives it's not because I expect the story to be completely bright and cheerful but because I know that whatever she writes it'll be incredibly beautiful and powerful, just like Wherever You Go is.

Release Date: July 10th, 2010
Pages: 272
Buy the Book
This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments make my day!