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Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company
Genre: Fiction
Paperback, 272 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 95/100

A gripping novel about the lengths to which we will go in the name of a cause.
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 settler 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 drop-out 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 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.  (From TLC Book Tours)
My Thoughts:

"He told me last night that he needed to change his life.  Like really change it....Everyone who comes here does that eventually.  Sometimes it's why you come in the first place.  To fix something that isn't working." (pg. 183)
To me the Jewish faith is not only a religion but a way of life.  It is also the framework of  Jewish culture.  Jewish religion and culture are so enmeshed within one another that I think is almost impossible to have one without the other.  Therefore a Jewish person who begins to question their life, choices, actions, their very being, is questioning not only their existence thus far but the very core of who they are; their faith and religion.  This is exactly what the three main characters in this novel are doing, and their travels to Israel and subsequent epiphanies are all tied together much like their faith and culture.

Yona, Mark, and Aaron all had interesting journeys which were shaped by the people and circumstances around them.  Several popular opinions that surround the Israeli-Palestine conflict are represented in this book.  From the extremists, to law enforcement, to lay people who see both sides of the argument, all have a stake in what happens in these two countries.  It is the extremist views and actions of Aaron that ultimately cause these three story lines (Yona, Mark, and Aaron) to intersect.  However it is this intersection that finally brings the characters to where they want to be as individuals.  It truly shapes their lives.  

Leegant has written a interesting and poignant story about modern day Israel and its people.  I was immediately drawn in by each of the characters, even Aaron the extremist.  Nurturing and compassion at an early age, probably would have kept him from becoming such a jaded and misguided young man.  In his mind Aaron is in a no win situation, and maybe he is.  Luckily his story is balanced beautifully by Yona and Mark's stories.  It is possible to have balance and happiness in your life.  You just need to come to terms with who you are and let the past go.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am so glad I stepped out of comfort zone to read it.  

For more information about the author. please visit her website:

For more thoughts on this book, please visit the other stops on the tour:

Monday, August 22nd: Reviews from the Heart
Tuesday, August 23rd: Life In Review
Wednesday, August 24th: The Scarlet Letter
Thursday, August 25th: Books Like Breathing
Friday, August 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, August 29th: Life is Short. Read Fast.
Tuesday, August 30th: Rundpinne
Wednesday, August 31st: Among Stories
Thursday, September 1st: Iwriteinbooks
Monday, September 5th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, September 6th: nomadreader
Wednesday, September 7th: Lit and Life
Thursday, September 8th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, September 12th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, September 14th: Wordsmithonia
Thursday, September 15th: Life in the Thumb
Friday, September 16th: Jenny Loves to Read
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour.