Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant
August 31, 2011 § 4 Comments
From the publisher:
Yona Stern has traveled from New York to Israel to make amends with her estranged sister, a stoic ideologue and mother of five who has dedicated herself to the radical West Bank settlement cause. Yona’s personal life resembles nothing of her sister’s, but it isn’t politics that drove the two apart.
Now a respected Jerusalem Talmud teacher, Mark Greenglass was once a drug dealer saved by an eleventh-hour turn to Orthodox Judaism. But for reasons he can’t understand, he’s lost his once fervent religious passion. Is he through with God? Is God through with him?
Enter Aaron Blinder, a year-abroad dropout with a history of failure whose famous father endlessly—some say obsessively—mines the Holocaust for his best-selling, melodramatic novels. Desperate for approval, Aaron finds a home on the violent fringe of Israeli society, with unforeseen and devastating consequences.
In a sweeping, beautifully written story, Joan Leegant, winner of the PEN New England Book Award and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, weaves together three lives caught in the grip of a volatile and demanding faith. Emotionally wrenching and unmistakably timely, Wherever You Go shines a light on one of the most disturbing elements in Israeli society: Jewish extremist groups and their threat to the modern, democratic state. This is a stunningly prescient novel.
I’ve spent a good part of my day procrastinating on my review of this book for one reason, I simply don’t have the words to explain how much I loved it, but I’m going to do my best.
When I first read the description of Wherever You Go, it was instantly a book that I wanted to read. When I first sat down with it, my intention was to read the first few chapters to see how things are. In fact, I ended up not putting the book down for hours. Between the characters, the story, and Leegant’s way of writing I was simply glued to Wherever You Go.
It’s no secret that when I read a book I look for great characters. I must say that reading this book, I grew to care for each of the three main characters almost immediately. They were just so human with faults and worries and they were all looking for something. Yona, Mark, and Aaron could be any of the people we pass on the street any given day and that fact only made the book easier for me to read.
As for the story, and the lives of these three people who find what they need in a place they never really expected to end up… Well, that is just another one of the pieces of the story that makes the book unputdownable. Wherever You Go is realistic in a way I don’t always see in literature, and it was quite honestly, refreshing.
I also couldn’t end this without saying that the writing is absolutely beautiful. Even if the story or characters hadn’t grabbed me I would’ve kept on reading because Leegant’s writing was simply stunning. I highly recommend reading Wherever You Go, simply because it’s a great novel. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for other works from Joan Leegant.