Friday, October 21, 2011

Wherever You Go - Joan Leegant

Wherever You Go, Joan Leegant, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010 (new in paperback, 2011)

Joan Leegant's Wherever You Go has been widely and highly praised by many other reviewers and fellow bloggers, and rightly so: this is truly a wonderful novel. Wherever You Go is the story of three troubled souls who, for very different reasons, make their way to Israel where a single act of violence connects them in ways they may never fully comprehend. Leegant gracefully and poignantly explores the inner lives and emotional struggles of Yona Stern, a woman seeking to mend a broken relationship with her estranged sister; Aaron Blinder, a disturbed young man who seeks purpose and connection in a radical community; and my favorite, Mark Greenglass, a Talmudic scholar with a spiritual crisis.

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy a book set in a completely different (non-American) place, and one of the things I loved best about this novel- and which sets it apart - is the setting. Mark Greenglass's story excepted, most of the novel takes place in Jerusalem or in border settlements. As a lively, diverse, complicated and often conflict-ridden place, Israel is a setting rich with opportunity for our characters to consider many facets of love, spirituality, religion, idealism, and extremism. It was especially intriguing to have some insight into the latter, through Aaron and Yona's sister, Dena.

Leegant weaves the characters and setting together into a brisk and intriguing plot - we want to know what will happen - and she sews it all up very neatly, and hopefully, in the end. Some readers may wonder if one needs to have a particular interest in or knowledge of Israeli history or politics to enjoy this novel, but I think it is written to have universal appeal. I highly recommend Wherever You Go to all novel lovers who like an interesting, thoughtful, and compelling read.

Many thanks to the author and the publisher for a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions expressed are my own.

Happy reading!


  1. I like your review and see what you mean by liking books with a different setting than America.

  2. Ah, Jennifer, it sounds like the conflicted Mr. Greenglass would be my favourite character too! I'll keep an eye out for Leegant's novel in local bookstores. Your review is also a timely reminder of how much I tend to love books that are compellingly-set in the Middle East. It makes me wish I could sit at an outdoor café somewhere no one knows my name and immerse myself in fictive worlds like this. Thank you for your review! :)

  3. I very much enjoyed this too. For me, Dena was the most interesting character.

  4. Thanks so much, Mike! Shivanee, you really might like Mr. Greenglass best- there was a beautiful passage that you would absolutely love that I couldn't really find a way to work into the review - *sigh* - but maybe I should have anyway. Sam, agree, she was a very interesting character, the contrast between Dena and Yona was very thoughtprovoking.

  5. Great review. I liked this book a lot too. I agree that you don't need a background in Israeli politics to enjoy it!

  6. I've heard a lot of good things of this book. Glad you liked it too. I am intrigued by this book mainly because of the setting - it sounds very different from many other books of this theme.

  7. Thanks, Aths. Interesting thought - I haven't read much else that I could directly compare it to, but perhaps the American characters, each seeking something different there, made it stand out.

  8. I adore books set in other places, so this sounds like the perfect book for me.


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