Friday, September 9, 2011

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant
243 pages
Published July 2010 by Norton, W.W. & Company, Inc.
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours

An apology upfront to TLC Book Tours; this review was supposed to have been posted on Wednesday, September 7th. I've had limited access to a computer this week and did not get it done.

Three main characters, three story arcs, are the driving force of Joan Leegant's latest novel.

Yona Stern is a woman who had a falling out with her sister a decade ago. In an effort to try to make amends, Yona travels to Israel, out to one of the settlements where her sister, Dena, lives with her five children and militant husband. The Ben-Tzions are amongst the group of Israelis who believe that their country to should not concede any land to the Palestinians, a group which looks down at the U.S. and European efforts to try to make peace in the Middle East. The past decade has seen Yona punishing herself for her what she did to her sister and she is desperate to be able to stop.

Mark Greenglass is the son of two non-practicing Jews who has lost his way, once again. After a long period of abusing drugs with the woman he loved, years ago Greenglass found himself swept into a deep love of the Jewish faith. It saved him then, and he's been able to make quite a name for himself as a teacher and lecturer, but now he is having a crisis of faith. What is it that God has in mind of him? Will he be able to leave New York and go back to the life he has been living in Jerusalem?

Aaron Blinder is the son of a writer who has become famous for writing fictionalized accounts of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. His mother died of cancer and Aaron and his father have found themselves unable to relate to one another every since. Now Aaron has traveled to Israel and connected an ultra-militant group of Israelis bent on driving the Palestinians out of the land they believe belongs to the Jews. As part of this group, Aaron hopes to be able to tell a new story about the Jews, one his father could never hope to be a part of.

Three characters, three story arcs. All will converge when Aaron makes his move to make a name for himself.

Leegant's writing is beautiful; the country of Israel came alive for me as I was reading the book. The subject matter was utterly new to me, not being of the Jewish faith and not being familiar with the extremist movement in Israel, and this both worked for and against the book as I read. I'm always eager to learn something new in my reading but sometimes I felt like only someone of the Jewish faith could truly relate to this story. There was a lot going on in this book, a lot of characters to keep track of, and some of the characters lost some of their appeal to me along the way. It felt a bit like they got watered down in all that was going on. So it was a bit of an effort to get through the book. But when Leegant brought all of the story lines together, the book pulled me in and I had to keep reading to see how politics might affect these characters lives in ways that I would never have thought possible. Might an innocent bystander really get caught up in a crime and be convicted of being a part of the plot?

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour and, once again, opening my eyes to a part of life of which I was woefully unaware!


  1. I have this one up for review soon and have to say that I am thrilled about it because I find the subject matter fascinating to me. It sounds like there is a lot of meat there to really get invested in, and that the story makes you think. This was a great review, very thoughtful and candid. Thanks!

  2. I'm glad that everything came together for you in the end - I'm excited about reading this one myself.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  3. I just received a copy of this one for review and, though I won't get to it for some time yet, I'm looking forward to it. I don't have much background on the topic either, but I'm curious to read the book anyway.

  4. I will come back and read your review. I'm working on this one right now!!!

  5. It sounds like a very fresh take. I'm looking forward to reading it.