Book Review: Wherever You Go, There They Are by Annabelle Gurwitch

Book Review: Wherever You Go, There They Are by Annabelle Gurwitch

Title: Wherever You Go, There They Are: Stories about My Family You Might Relate To
Author: Annabelle Gurwitch
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Gurwitch has certainly had an interesting life. The stories in this book mostly focus on family and her experiences with trying to become an actress. I very much enjoyed when she talked about being non-religious in a Jewish family and how she still keeps some rituals, because they’re just so ingrained into her. I also thought the stories she writes about her aging parents are at once heartbreaking, funny, and moving. Anybody who’s had to handle any aspect of taking care of an aging relative will be able to relate to her experiences with moving her parents to a retirement facility and dealing with failing health. Humor, emotion, and reflection are well presented in these stories, and I think that a lot of people will be able to enjoy those aspects of her stories.

However, in spite of how interesting most of the stories are, I wish they had more focus. Most of the stories read like a stream-of-consciousness exercise and don’t have structure or form, which made them hard to follow. It gets better as the book goes on, but the first half of this book is a real struggle. I can’t imagine listening to this as an audiobook–I don’t think it’d make much sense at all. It definitely took away from the experience, because you’d start on a story thinking you were going to be reading about one of her father’s famous exploits, and you somehow end up reading about flamingos or seafood.

I still found this book to be a somewhat enjoyable read. I won’t be outright recommending it to people, but if the description sounds interesting to you — go for it! Just know what you’re getting into in terms of how the stories are written.

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