Tuesday 6 September 2011

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Wherever You Go is a beautifully complex novel about three Americans in Israel.  Yona wants to reconnect with her sister, a settler involved in extremist politics.  Greenglass is an orthodox teacher but having problems with his faith.   Aaron is a college drop-out with family problems who is looking for a way to prove himself or something he can belong to.

Leegant weaves these three very separate lives together throughout the course of the novel and builds up to a dramatic finale.  I found the most interesting character to be Dena, Yona's sister, who had completely devoted her life to one interpretation of her faith and for most of the book was unable to see anything else, including the person she had once been.  I am non-religious so it was fascinating to be given a glimpse of life so led by religion and the different reasons people turn to religion.

For me, the best thing about this novel was how Leegant managed to portray such a broad spectrum of opinion about religion and politics in Israel, and by doing so demonstrated how complex the country is.  I'm not Jewish or Israeli or even American and perhaps have been guilty of oversimplifying Israel and the Middle East in general, thinking things such as "Israelis think that...." or "Israelis are..." and Leegant's book reminded how just how complicated the situation is.

Leegant's book would be a great pick for a book group because it gave me so much to think about and so many questions to ask myself - At what point does religion become fundamentalist?  Why do people turn to religion in bad times rather than good?  Can people with opposing ideologies ever live together in peace?  Can you ever redeem yourself from certain acts?  What issues or causes would you devote your life to?

But I don't want you all to think this was just a stuffy, 'issues' book as it was also a story that was enjoyable to read with characters I came to care about.  I would recommend it.

Source: From the author, in exchange for an honest review.  Wherever You Go is already available in America and is released in the UK on September 17th.
Score: 4.5 out of 5

Don't forget to enter my Back To The Books Giveaway HERE!
Tomorrow is your last chance to enter.


  1. This sounds really interesting, I like the idea of an examination of fervent religious ideology without having a moralistic agenda, definitely one for my list.

  2. Thanks for the review. I shall put this one on my list.

  3. Danielle, this wasn't a preachy book, all sides were looked at. Hope you enjoy it!

    Linda, hope you do get a chance to read the book.

  4. This sounds fascinating. The fact that the author managed not to "take sides" on the issues front is a real plus.

  5. Thank you for the review! Sadly the library doesn't have this book but I'll be sure to look for it at the book store