23 December 2011

Book Review: Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Title: Wherever You Go
Author: Joan Leegant
Publisher: W.W Norton
ISBN: 978-0-393-33989-5
Format: Paperback
253 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: Publisher

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant is a timely, compelling novel about three young Jewish Americans who go to Israel, and the unexpected consequences when their paths cross.

Yona Stern intends to meet with her estranged sister, Dena, and hopes to make amends for a past betrayal. Mark Greenglass is a highly respected Talmud teacher who has lost his religious passion so he has accepted a new job teaching at a college that has nothing to do with religion. Aaron Blinder is a college dropout who feels stifled by his father's unreasonable expectations so he joins a radical group in Israel.

The perspective shifts seamlessly back and forth between each character as the troubled background of each one is gradually revealed. Their widely different views of Jewishness and the theme of strained family relationships is explored as is the dangerous attraction to Jewish extremism and a search for a purpose in life. Other themes addressed are love, forgiveness, loneliness, and making a commitment to a person and/or place.

I was mesmerized by the touching story of the fascinating characters as they each pursue their different goals. Their inner turmoil is intensified by the unsettling sense of foreboding that makes the reader worry about what will happen next.

Joan Leegant is an American author who has lived half the year in Tel Aviv since 2007 and her first-hand knowledge of Israel is evident with her vivid descriptions of people and places.The author has created a tense, atmospheric novel with very real characters and a powerful storyline that immediately grabbed me and stayed with me long after reading the last page.

Wherever You Go is a haunting, thought-provoking novel with powerful messages that helps to explain the complicated political situation in Israel as well as about what it means to be Jewish. I gained a new perspective about Israeli society and also learned a lot about the Jewish religion. I'm grateful to the publisher, W.W. Norton, for sending me a review copy.

If you like to read novels that address important issues and enlighten as well as enthrall, then you must read Wherever You Go. It's beautifully written, with politics and religion woven into an unforgettable story. I highly recommend it.

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