Monday, May 15, 2017

Wherever You Go, There They Are

Title:  Wherever You Go, There They Are
Author:  Annabelle Gurwitch
Publication Information:  Blue Rider Press. 2017. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0399574883 / 978-0399574887

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Moo Goo Gai Pan was a swashbuckling adventurer who sailed the seven seas carousing and plundering and generally yo-ho-ho-ing it up."

Favorite Quote:  "The bosom of your family can be comforting but it can also be smothering."

The story of Wherever You Go, There They Are is really more like wherever you go and whatever you do, they may or may not be there, but their impact on your life and the legacy of them that you carry within you will always be. You will think of them. You will hear their voice in your head. They, of course, are your family. Call it baggage. Call it family love. Call it whatever you want, it will be with you wherever you go.

The subtitle of this book reads, "Stories About My Family You Might Relate To." In other words, this book is a collection of stories, really essays, that relate or include reference to the author's family. Some, like those about her aging parents and her mother's illness, are really personal. Some are less personal and more social commentary. Some, in fact, have little if anything to do with her family at all.

The publicity for the book states, "A hysterically funny and slyly insightful new collection ... 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." The book blurb sets really high expectations. The book does not live up to that expectation in either being funny or being about family.

 The overall tone of the book is very conversational. Reading the book is almost like listening to someone tell this story. This makes the book a very easy and quick read. As is the case in all collections, some essays appeal to me more than others. The first and last are my favorites because they are the ones centered on family. These are the stories that give a glimpse at emotions and feelings. The others seems more concept centered and as such more essay than story. Some I relate to, but I end my reading without a real connection to or feelings towards the characters. It's interesting, but it does not elicit an emotional reaction.

That being said, parts of the book are definitely funny. However, a lot of the tongue in cheek commentary is presented as footnotes in the book. I have no idea why that format is chosen other than to draw attention. After a while, it is just annoying. I would much rather see it incorporated into the text and not have the flow of thought interrupted to look for the footnote at the end of the page. At some points, I find myself reading the footnote on the page first and then looking to the text to see what the joke is. Note that on a Kindle, this issue is made worse by the fact that often a footnote continues on to the next page. I am unsure if that is by intent, or an issue with format.

This forced break in reading is perhaps one reason the book fails to connect emotionally. In addition, the collection does not have the continuity of a timeline or another organization really pulling it together. It is simply a collection, with each essay going from topic to topic rather than a composite, emotional story of a family.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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