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Wherever You Go: A Novel

3.54  ·  Rating Details  ·  328 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews

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 settlement 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 de

Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 25th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published July 12th 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,038)
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Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This beautiful book captured me from the first page: Leegant's writing style is effortless, detailed, lyrical, and compelling. In a single page, she sketches the beauty of a location, the mood of the setting, a flashback, the present challenge. Set in modern-day Israel, it follows three Jewish Americans who come to Israel for different reasons -- reconciliation, escape, a desire for peace -- and while the story features some complicated back story (the situation with Israeli settlers, for exampl ...more
Oct 03, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
In Wherever You Go, the stories of three Americans in Israel are interwoven. Leegant spends enough time with each character for the reader to get a sense of who each is and how s/he has come to be the way s/he is. The writing is lovely; Leegant writes easily yet with a sense of tension and movement behind her lines. The dialogue, too, comes across as very realistic, the sort of conversations you can imagine actual people having. I was hoping to learn a bit about the situation in Israel through t ...more
Jun 22, 2014 Gwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just as in the story of Ruth and Naomi, family, relationships, and longing to find one's place, drive this book. The three central characters seek, and perhaps find, themselves, or some knowledge about themselves, in Israel. Their lives eventually intersect, in a sad yet realistic way, and each of them emerges more true to themselves than before. The story does not end in a neat and tidy way, but it ends in a possible way, for each character to continue as they were, but slightly different, than ...more
Wherever You Go describes the independent journeys of three Jewish Americans each weaving their separate lives towards one final dramatic divergent conclusion. Haunted by questions they can wait no longer for the answers to, they willingly or unwillingly travel to Israel, to find introspection, escape, and redemption.

Capricous and self-indulgent Yona seeks reconciliation with her sister, a single-minded activist living on the West Bank. Once a pacifist revolutionary, she’s become hardened by th
Sep 01, 2011 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Some places are a melting pot but the eternally combustible sands of the middle east could better be described as a pressure cooker. Under the desert sun in Israel, three lives bake and squirm amidst a stronger power in Joan Leegant’s Wherever You Go. Yona Stern has come halfway around the world in one last-ditch effort to save an all but lost relationship with her sister. Mark Greenglass has jumped out of the hot pot, only to land in the equally spiritual
Hannah M.
I’ve spent a good part of my day procrastinating on my review of this book for one reason, I simply don’t have the words to explain how much I loved it, but I’m going to do my best.

When I first read the description of Wherever You Go, it was instantly a book that I wanted to read. When I first sat down with it, my intention was to read the first few chapters to see how things are. In fact, I ended up not putting the book down for hours. Between the characters, the story, and Leegant’s way of wri
Oct 27, 2011 Jael rated it really liked it
It took me a little while to see where the characters were going with this book. But eventually I got it. The lives of three Israeli Americans with seemingly no connection in Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant have more in common than they know. In some way all three are questioning what they know.

Yona Stern has returned to Jerusalem from New York, in hopes of reuniting with her estranged sister Dena. Yona betrayed her sister in the worst way, sleeping with the love of her life. Dena had her life a
Amy Meyer
Oct 01, 2011 Amy Meyer rated it really liked it
Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Published Date: July 25, 2011
ISBN: 978-393339895
Pages: 253
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Book Summary: 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 settlement cause. Yona’s personal life resembles nothing of her sister’s, but it isn’t politics that drove the two apart.

Now a respecte
Jenn Ravey
Mar 30, 2012 Jenn Ravey rated it really liked it
Joan Leegant's novel Wherever You Go is both exactly what you'd expect and nothing you'd expect from a novel set in Israel. Personally, I expected judgment and religious discourse. Instead, I found a very thoughtful novel, which I thought aptly expressed the ambiguity toward Israel many Americans feel.

Partially, Leegant is able to do this because of her characters: three Americans with arms and legs and whole bodies reaching, willingly or unwillingly, to that Holy Land, Jerusalem. Yona - to see
Apr 11, 2015 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-books
I enjoyed this book. The book was easy to get into. It kept my attention. I'm not familiar with this part of the world, Israel. All three major characters were young United States citizens who went to Israel to resolve the issues they had in their lives. One, Aaron, becomes involved in a political extremist group. He never really belonged to a group or had friends in the United States. Now he has friends. Yona is trying to reconnect with her sister and correct a wrong she did to her sister. Her ...more
Sep 12, 2011 Zoë rated it it was amazing
Shelves: review-copy
Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant weaves together three individuals whose lives become entangled in the volatile climate of Israeli society. Yona travels to Israel to try to mend things with her sister, estranged for over ten years, a woman whose life has become the polar opposite of her own. Meanwhile Mark travels back to New York City, the place where he was saved from drugs by his faith, from Jerusalem, to give lectures on the Talmud, trying to ignore the sensation that what he is speaking abou ...more
Kathleen (Kat) Smith
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 religio
Sep 08, 2011 Jessica rated it liked it
I feel I need to begin this review by mentioning the fact that Wherever You Go is not a light read. Not in the least. I was mistakenly under the impression that this relatively short read would be something light and introspective. While the book definitely raises some amazing discussion points and questions, it is by no means an easy read. It took me a lot longer to read this than anything else I've read this month. Mainly because I'd find something I wanted to mull over and have to stop readin ...more
Dec 28, 2011 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers interested in Israel
I have always had a fascination with Israel and the whole history and idea that Jews should have their own country. Trying to understand the seemingly endless conflict in Israel by reading the news never fails to leave me hopelessly confused. I've gotten much better results reading novels.

Wherever You Go is set in contemporary Israel, mainly in Jerusalem. Joan Leegant has tackled two gigantic though related aspects of the conflict in her short and rather light novel. One is the relationship of A
"Aaron knelt beneath a shaky tree and slid his two gym bags off his shoulders, then looked back. He could hear them murmuring in the dark, Ben Ami's nasal whispers, Davidson's reluctant grunts. He wished they'd hurry up, wished they'd stop arguing so he could forget about their big teary drama and concentrate on what he was meant to do and let God or Shroeder or whoever else be the judge."

I have been tossing around how I was going to review this book for the past week or so. I finally settled
Oct 23, 2011 Robyn rated it liked it
Wherever You Go is the first novel I've read by Joan Leegant. I'm a fan of Michael Cunningham (The Hours) and Julia Glass (Three Junes), and the cover of Wherever You Go, for some reason, reminded me of their work. After seeing this book advertised in a banner on the Goodreads website, I thought I'd give this novel a go.

I entered a giveaway contest for a copy of this book, and was beyond thrilled when one day I received a package from W.W. Norton, with a beautiful brand-new copy of Wherever You
Apr 23, 2011 Cornmaven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
Leegant packs a whole lot into this novel set mostly in Israel. She does a nice job of laying out the various philosophical factions that exist concerning its history and future. And the story is a typical many-characters-converge-on-a-pivotal-moment, but there's this piece of Judaic thought and wisdom overlaying the whole thing, that it requires the reader to think a lot.

The issue of how to ensure the survival of the Jews in modern times is front and center, but right there with it is how to en
Jan 07, 2016 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm struck by this offhand comment that an author in the AWP conference's 21st century Jewish literature panel said last month- she claimed that Heeb fiction writers haven't been able to write about Israel from a modern, American Jewish perspective. Clearly, she wasn't taking this book into account!

"Wherever You Go" tracks three very different American Jews who visit or live in Israel. My favorite is Yona- she's trying to ask forgiveness from her ten-years estranged sister who lives on an extrem
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 har
Sep 15, 2011 Staci rated it really liked it
Recommended to Staci by: TLC Book Tour
"He turned back to the terrible bed. It looked like the bed of a prisoner, the brutal metal frame, the cheap narrow mattress. He straightened the sheets, smoothed the thin blanket, tried to fluff up the sorrowful pillow, making it up as best he could so that if she ever came back, she would know that someone had been there who had loved her and cared for her and hoped that she would be all right."
p. 154
This is the type of writing where I can really lose myself in the story and never want to come
Andy Oram
Feb 13, 2016 Andy Oram rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I consider this novel essentially a romance, but it does offer a compelling view of life in Jerusalem (for Israelis and American expats--the book lacks an Arab voice) and a look at extremist movements. The book makes a strong case that it is hard to be both pragmatic and ethical in Israel. You have to accept some unpersuasive aspects of a bombing plot, but once you do, you can get satisfyingly caught up in the choices confronting characters and the unexpected outcomes of their actions.
* I received this book for free through Goodread 's First Reads

I was very excited to have been selected for a free copy- this book instantly appealed to me. I found the book very easy to get into. The characters are interesting and the author has given you quite a bit of background detail on each of them.
The three quarters of the book, I found fascinating. The final quarter of the book not so much. I felt disconnected from the characters and I didn't quite get the whole picture. I'm going to
Oct 04, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leegant beautifully weaves three stories together in Wherever You Go . It provides a great picture of some of the issues that Israel faces today. The end left me wanting to know more about what would have happened to the main characters.
Wherever You Go is an interesting story of people searching - for answers, for forgiveness, for a sense of belonging - but ultimately forgettable. None of the characters really stand out as strong leads, and their actions are collectively a bit predictable and forced. Something as messy as race relations in Israel should not tie up into such a tidy bow as this does. Readers will appreciate the chance to learn more about the Israeli culture and daily battles against the Palestinians but feel that ...more
Dec 03, 2015 Ruthie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I understand what the author was trying to accomplish with this novel and it's three stories, but it just didn't work for me. I had no patience for any of the main characters and found them to be rather unsympathetic . I was more interested in some of the secondary characters, perhaps because I was not in their heads so much. I did appreciate the insights into what it is like to live in Israel from differing Jewish viewpoints; dealing with bombings, traffic, and the never-ending politica ...more
Erika Dreifus
Jan 01, 2012 Erika Dreifus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish-lit
I've just finished reading this novel, after having my complimentary review copy sit far too long on my TBR stack. I probably should take a little more time to think about the book and refine my thoughts. For the moment, I'll simply say that this is an exceptional book, not least because Leegant has taken something that is so hard for anyone (some might argue, for an American Jew especially) to write about--Israel--and she has produced a complex yet highly readable and provocative novel.
Nov 05, 2015 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The writing is very good, and even though I thought it a bit slow at first, the story grew richer with the introduction of each important character. In a sort of Bridge at San Luis Rey kind of way, three Americans all find themselves in Israel, all separately and for very different reasons. Their stories come together in a difficult end. It is a well written book about the human condition, with the added complex layer of life today in Israel. I recommend it.
Louise Silk
Apr 27, 2011 Louise Silk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This novel alternates among the lives of individuals trying to make sense out of conflicts and the various philosophical factions concerning Israel. I found it an unsuccessful attempt to comment on the variety of Americans trying to find their place in family, history, faith and ideology.

The story's structure focuses on how the characters come together in a tragic event. It is a predicable pivotal moment making what should have been an exciting thriller quite dull and not worth reading.
May 13, 2011 Danielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: deep
Recommended to me for our Jewish women's book club. Sounds very interesting, and the Boston Bibliophile gave it 4 stars.


Just started this book, so far the first chapter is terrific.


I really enjoyed this book. It was cleverly written from 3 people's perspective, and quite effectively examined issues of American Jews' relationship with modern Israel without being preachy. And I loved the ending, it made me cry. Beautiful.
Jan 19, 2012 Kara rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Wherever You Go is a thought-provoking novel about three Americans living in Israel. Leegant’s writing is very beautiful and she draws you into the characters. Even though this is a small book, it is not an easy read. Wherever You Go has depth and it will stick with you long after you read it. I will definitely be reading other novels by Leegant. I received this book from Goodreads Giveaways!
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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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