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Wherever You Go: A Novel Paperback – July 25, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leegant's debut novel, after her story collection, An Hour in Paradise, follows three Americans who long for definitive answers from their Jewish faith. Yona Stern returns to Jerusalem in an attempt to reconcile with her sister, Dena, from whom she's been estranged for 10 years after sleeping with Dena's husband. Dena has since married a man committed to the uncompromising Jewish settlements. Mark Greenglass, a scholar who has replaced his drug addiction with a religious addiction, leaves Jerusalem to return to New York for a teaching gig and to reconnect with his parents and the woman he loved but couldn't save from a dissipated life. And Aaron Blinder, a college dropout resentful of his father's success writing bestselling novels about the Holocaust, searches for a group to join in Israel to give his life meaning. While each individual tale has its urgency and pathos, the story becomes gripping only in the latter part of the book when the three paths collide in a frightening incident caused by an impetuous, irresponsible act by Aaron. Unfortunately, that is the shortest section, making the whole feel unbalanced, but Leegant's strong, sensory writing compensates.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Leegant's compelling debut novel weaves together the lives of three characters searching for personal and religious reconciliation in volatile settings. Yona travels from New York to Israel to visit her estranged older sister, Dena, who lives near Hebron in the West Bank. After the loss of their parents and a past of infidelity that drove the siblings apart, Yona longs to reconnect with her unforgiving sister while navigating her own sense of redemption. Mark Greenglass, a respected Jewish lecturer, visits his family in New York, where he faces his tumultuous, drug-addled past as well as a growing indifference toward his faith. At the edge of Jerusalem city limits, college student Aaron Blinder arrives at a radical outpost after dropping out of his yearlong semester abroad program. Socially awkward and crumbling under the pressure from his father, a famous writer, Aaron quickly feels at home with the camp. But when an act of violence propels the intersecting of Leegant's characters' lives in a shocking climax, they are finally forced to confront the aftermath of their life choices. --Leah Strauss --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (July 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393339890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393339895
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,356,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joan Leegant began writing fiction at the age of forty. Her story collection, AN HOUR IN PARADISE, won the PEN/Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author, the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and was a Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, WHEREVER YOU GO, published in 2010, was named a Significant Jewish Book by the Union of Reform Judaism. Raised in Westbury, New York and a graduate of Harvard, Boston University Law School and the Vermont College MFA Program, Leegant practiced law for a decade before turning to fiction. Since 2007 she's lived half the year in Tel Aviv where she teaches at Bar-Ilan University. A night writer, Leegant does most of her work between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am. She and her husband have two sons, a boatbuilder and a filmmaker. For more about Joan Leegant and her work, visit: www.joanleegant.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I would have given this book six stars if the rating existed. I purchased this book in Israel as it has been released here ahead of the U.S. release. I can't say enough positive things about this book. After hearing Leegant speak I couldn't wait to start reading. And as an American living in Israel, I have read every novel out there about Israel and its relationship to America and the American Jewish Community. Leegant is very well versed in her subject matter. Her razor sharp observations make the book a revelation on every page. Her characters are flawed and believable. This book is honest, true, and written with deep insight and humanity. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand better the dynamics inside of Israel. Or anyone just interested in a hugely satisfying read. I have loaned my copy and bought three others for gifts. It's that good.
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Format: Hardcover
This book follows primarily the lives of three main characters. Yona, an American who has travelled to Israel to reconcile with her sister from whom she has been estranged for years; Mark, a Jewish educator who has a drug addicted past, replacing it with a fervent adherence to religion and who now struggles as his religion is losing its meaning for him; Aaron, a young college drop out with a demanding famous father searching for some meaning in his life. I found Yona's struggle to mend the rift with her sister and make better choices in her life to be very believable and endearing. Mark's struggle is something many have dealt with and my heart went out to him and his story. I felt compassion for Aaron until his later choices caused me to lose that feeling. A violent and tragic act brings these characters together in interesting ways. I think these characters as well as Yona's sister and her group represent some of the different factions within Israeli society. The end does not spell out specifically what happens to each of these people, but leaves open very real possibilities. The book is extremely well written and moves along quickly. Leegant has a lot to say in Wherever You Go and she says it very well.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some books dissolve in memory as soon as they are put down. Not a Joan Leegant book. Like An Hour in Paradise, her glowing collection of short stories, the novel Wherever You Go seems bound to leave something of itself with the reader. Through Leegant's deft structuring of the very different yet interlocking life transitions of three very different individuals, contemporary Israel itself becomes the primary character of this believably plotted and richly textured work. The result is not only a good read but a vividly real sense of the multi-layered complexity, contradictions, failure, and promise that describe not only her people and their relationships but the all-too-humanly dynamic organism that is the nation of Israel. Leegant's perceptiveness is sometimes breathtaking, which is largely why her people--and Israel itself--come to live and breathe on the page. Yes, the novel gets off to a leisurely beginning (perhaps just short of downright slow), but it builds deliberately, and by the halfway point becomes "couldn't put it down" material. Book clubs are sure to find this a natural, with substance enough for rewarding discussion on any number of topics and levels. It strikes me as coming close to creating as tangibly real a sense of Israel as Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone does of post-war Ethiopia. Definitely a winner.
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Format: Paperback
Modern-day Israel is one of those countries in which I can just about barely imagine living. Living one's life surrounded by sworn enemies, and being condemned by much of the rest of the world for what sometimes seems to be an overzealous dedication to self-defense, has to have a huge psychological impact on Israeli citizens. I often wonder how they go about their daily lives under those conditions. Is terrorism constantly on their minds or do they learn to push aside the threat and get on with it?

Questions like these make me appreciate novels that offer a glimpse into that world, books that speak with authority and insight about what it is really like there. Joan Leegant's "Wherever You Go" is one of the better books of this type I have read in 2011.

"Wherever You Go" is the story of how three very different American Jews, strangers all, converge in Israel only to have their lives forever changed by circumstances none could have foreseen. Yona Stern is there in hopes of reconciling with the sister who has not spoken to her for ten years but finds that Dana, by now a hardcore West Bank settlement zealot, wants nothing to do with her. Mark Greenglass, a respected Talmud scholar who initially returned to his religion as a means of escaping the addiction that was killing him, is back from a family visit to New York and wondering where his religious fervor has gone. And young college student, Aaron Binder, finds himself drawn to a radical fringe group and its charismatic leader after deciding to stay in Israel a while longer before returning to the U.S.

Leegant tells their individual stories in alternating chapters, building each character layer by layer until they seem very real to her readers.
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