Wherever You Go

Wherever You Go

by Joan Leegant

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393054767
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/12/2010
Pages: 253
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Joan Leegant, author of An Hour in Paradise and Wherever You Go, won the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for the best book of Jewish-American fiction and the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

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Wherever You Go 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Marcupl More than 1 year ago
The best review I read of Wherever You Go was from the Association of Jewish Libraries, "A small masterpiece, small only in that Leegant needs few pages to say a lot. Her book is eloquent, timely, and thought provoking." That says it all about this great read.
SamSattler on LibraryThing 8 months ago
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 Leegent¿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.Leegent tells their individual stories in alternating chapters, building each character layer by layer until they seem very real to her readers. They have very different lives, and at first do not seem to have much in common until one realizes that the three of them have come to Israel seeking the same thing: a fresh start on the rest of their lives. Yona needs her sister¿s forgiveness if she is to move on; Mark needs to reconcile his inner religious turmoil before he can do the same; and Aaron is desperately seeking an affirmation of his self-worth, something his overbearing father has long denied him.Just about the point at which some readers might begin to wonder what Leegent intends for her characters, one of them will make the fatal decision that brings them together for the first time. It is a tragic choice, one made for all the wrong reasons, and it has the potential to ruin the futures of Yona, Mark, and Aaron.Wherever You Go is a gut-wrenching look at how one brief moment can change lives forever. Three people: an unobservant Jew, a Jewish religious scholar in the process of losing his faith, and an unstable radical, come together in a collision authored by sheer chance. None of them will be the same.Rated at: 4.5
wilsonknut on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant is a thematically complex novel examining the lives of three Jewish Americans who have traveled to Israel. All three find themselves in Israel because they seek atonement in varying forms, but often atonement must be made with sacrifice. The book examines both political and religious extremism as it collides with democracy in the Middle East, but perhaps even more importantly the book examines the overwhelming human need to feel accepted, to feel like we belong to something bigger than ourselves. Leegant¿s prose is beautiful and her knowledge of Israel makes this novel come alive.Yona Stern travels to Israel to seek forgiveness from her sister for a past sin. The book opens with Yona¿s arrival at the airport, and the novel in many ways is about why Jewish Americans travel to Israel. ¿The metallic clanging. The loudspeakers blaring in five languages. The luggage carousel coughed up its half-digested suitcases.¿ Leegant is masterful with descriptions throughout the novel, and this opening scene will undoubtedly be familiar to many readers who have made the journey.This is not Yona¿s first trip to Israel. In fact, her grievous sin against her sister was committed on a past trip. The reader learns from the customs agent that the name Yona means dove in Hebrew. Her sister¿s name, Dena, means judgment. Dena, a mother of five and pregnant again, is part of the settlement movement, which is viewed as radical by some. She is stoic and unrelenting. The symbolism in the novel is clear.The second character the novel follows is Mark Greenglass, an ex-drug dealer turned talented Talmud teacher. While the novel opens with Yona arriving in Israel, the first time the reader meets Mark he is stepping off a train in New York having come from Israel to deliver a series of lectures. Leegant writes: "He was a fake. An imposter. It was all falling apart and he couldn¿t stop it. He ought to pull off the yarmulke, the tzitzit fringes, throw them into the trash. Everything was unraveling and he didn¿t know why, only that it was slipping away from him like so much water from his fingertips. One day it¿s the organizing principle of your life, and the next it¿s nothing. Gone, evaporated."Mark is struggling with his faith, but like Yona, the internal struggle is tied to the aching need for atonement. As he thinks about how he has skipped the morning and afternoon prayers, he muses: "And now he was going to skip them all again. In the place where the whole business began. New York. Where he¿d descended with Regina and climbed back out alone. The irony was not lost on him. He was giving it up in the place where all that hot desire for the holy had first taken root."While in New York, Mark wants to help Regina, his first love. Religion saved him, but he left her behind. She is caught in the nightmare of drug addiction, and now he is wavering in the very thing that took him away.Also like Yona, Mark feels ostracized by his family. Mark¿s father, Lenny, is all business and money. He has no interest in religion or art or anything remotely emotional. Yona and Dena are polar opposites, as are Mark and his father.The third main character in the novel is the one that ultimately brings them all together. Aaron Blinder is a young college dropout, lost and lonely in the world. As I said before, the symbolism is clear. Aaron is appropriately named.He, like Yona and Mark, is a family outcast. His lack of ambition and series of failures embarrasses his father, a famous Jewish American writer whose books focus on the Holocaust. Aaron desperately wants to be a part of something important. He wants to be a success. He wants his father to look at him with pride. While living in an extremist commune on the edge of Israeli territory, not fitting in, not respected by the Israelis: "He felt the hand of the almighty Avenger guiding him, touching him on his very shoulder, looking down at him from this cracked
bookworm12 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Three disconnected stories of Jewish Americans in Israel culminate with a tragic event. Each of the three main characters has family issues that, in one way or another, convince them to travel to Israel. Mark Greenglass, a former addict who turned his life around and because a Talmud teacher, Aaron Blinder, an academic failure and the son of a successful author and finally, Yona, a New Yorker who loses herself in meaningless relationships and denies her true passion: art. Mark's family has a hard time accepting his new beliefs. Aaron has a hard time accepting his father's work and fame. Yona hurt her sister deeply ten years earlier and is now trying to reconcile with her. The three individuals are incredibly different and remain separate for the majority of the book. At times I felt like I didn't get to know them as well as I would have liked because it does bounce between the stories so quickly.Leegant focuses on the role religion plays in a person's life. Should it justify any behavior? Should it come between personal relationships? What are the driving motivations behind our actions that we often attribute to faith? All of which are fascinating questions, though I don't think the books' goal is to answer any of them. At times, the story reminded me of Nicole Krauss' Great House or Everything Beautiful Began After. Both books feature multiple characters who are, at first, unconnected and are brought together by a major event. The difference, for me, was the writing. Both of those books rely heavily on beautiful prose and that's what made me connect to them in the end. So, overall, an interesting read and one that's perfect for anyone who's particularly interested in Israel or looking at the role religion plays in your life. I wish I could have connected more with the main characters, but I'm still glad I read it.
coolmama on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Loved this novel of interconnected "lost souls" in Israel and how their fate becomes entwined.
writestuff on LibraryThing 8 months ago
¿That¿s the thing about animal cries,¿ the girl said. ¿About any creature we don¿t understand. Some sounds are hostile and others are friendly, but we can¿t tell the difference.¿ - from Wherever You Go, page 68 -Joan Leegant¿s novel is set in Jerusalem and introduces three main characters: Yona Stern who has arrived in the country to try to heal old wounds with her sister Dena (who has embraced a radical West Bank settlement cause); Mark Greenglass, a Talmud teacher who is struggling with his faith and regretting his past mistakes; and Aaron Blinder, a college drop out who has arrived in Jerusalem searching for meaning and discovers a violent fringe group. Although initially unconnected to each other, the three characters¿ lives intersect after a senseless act of violence.Wherever You Go takes a hard look at faith, religion, religious zeal, and the senselessness of violence in the name of God. Leegant takes her time developing the characters, and this was an aspect of the book I appreciated. Each of the characters shares a struggle with faith, although they come to it from vastly different places.Mark Greenglass is perhaps the most sympathetic character. He has pulled himself free of a drug addiction and become a Talmudic scholar, but he cannot let go of his past. Greenglass struggles to understand why he feels empty despite his strong faith. He regrets that the one woman he has loved is in a spiral of despair and drugs, and that he is unable to help her. As Greenglass looks deep within his heart, he begins to understand what he is missing.There is was, right in front of him. The truth: Love. He had avoided love his whole adult life. He¿d told himself it was because of the religion, that he¿d be with a woman only in the proper way, with chaste dates and a correct betrothal, or else that his life was uncertain, too unstable, that it wasn¿t the right time or the right place. ¿ from Wherever You Go, page 99 -Yona is a woman who has made terrible mistakes in her life ¿ one of which has separated her from her sister, Dena, and caused her to devalue herself. She seeks forgiveness from her sister, but is unprepared for what she finds in the West Bank settlement. Dena is living a life of blind faith and radical beliefs, yet her heart is coldly closed to Yona. Through Yona, the reader comes face to face with the sacrifice which people who are dedicated to radical causes make.Dena gave brisk, unapologetic answers. No, she was not afraid to drive anywhere. Five kids plus a job was not unusual there, children learned early that they were required to help. She was not fearful for them; they were part of something bigger, a higher purpose. What will happen, will happen. What mattered was having a life with meaning. Sometimes sacrifices had to be made. - from Wherever You Go, page 139 -Finally, there is Aaron. A young man who has grown up in the shadow of the Holocaust through the work of his father ¿ an author who only writes about the hatred of the Nazis toward the Jews. Aaron longs for his father to see him and accept him for who he is, but he feels unworthy. For Aaron, the violence of a fringe group makes him feel he is doing something important.But the real God was here, in this place, and Aaron knew it. He felt the hand of the Almighty Avenger guiding him, touching him on his very shoulder, looking down at him from this cracked ceiling in this miserable outpost on the edge of the scorpion desert where a hundred battles had been fought and where so much blood had soaked into the earth that even the mountains had turned red. ¿ from Wherever You Go, page 85 -There is a feeling of relentless inevitability in Leegant¿s novel ¿ a feeling that we are on an unavoidable collision course. As the characters move closer together, their paths about to cross, the reader begins to sense doom. It is a feeling all too often experienced when we turn on the nightly news and watch the violence, terror and fear unfolding
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
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. My Review: The story was well written to include the lives of the three characters in the book, Yona Stern, Mark Greenglass and Aaron Blinder. They are united in a unique way, their love for Israel and the importance of being a Jew. For Yona Stern, she struggles with rebuilding the relationship with her sister Dena for the last 12 years while rebuilding the issue of trust that has dissolved between them. Yona cheated on her sister with her boyfriend at the time, who confessed he didn't really love Dena for the last year and instead has fallen for her. Riddled with guilt, he ultimately confesses to Dena and ends the relationship thinking that they will now fall in love. The only problem is that Yona doesn't love him and never did. Now she finds herself trying to finally reconcile the gap that has come between them in her section of the book and it seems that Dena only wishes to punish her sister through her actions while she allows her to visit by barely speaking to her, and for the most part staying so busy they don't have time to be alone. Mark Greenglass has spent his year attempting to find out who he really is, under the watchful eyes of his father, who has more money then he will ever be able to spend in his lifetime. He doesn't believe that Mark will ever amount to anything and he spends time in and out of different college classes trying to find his faith again as a Jewish man. Aaron Builder is a unique individual who is trying to make sure that the Jewish people are not forced out of Israel by their Arab neighbors. He will join whatever cause is necessary to make sure that the rising hostilities against Israel will not eliminate the country he has come to love. I received this book compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review. This is probably one of the first books that I've had the opportunity to read that involves three different stories all in one but doesn't lose the reader along the way. There within the pages of this novel we find out just how far these individuals are willing to go to in the name of their cause? I rate this book a 4 out of 5 stars!
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Irish_Traveller More than 1 year ago
Ms. Leegant creates characters that are intriguing and their situations keep us reading and thinking about how they will act out their individual lives. One can't help but see the entire Israeli-Palestine conflict mirrored in the book - she does not take sides but merely reveals the humanity - flawed and flawless - in these people While there are threads of different stories, at the end there is one story. This is a good read - couldn't put it down
John76JS More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down.This is a novel that makes you think, while at the same time being a terrific read. Great characters, great story, totally engrossing.
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