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Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  3,958 ratings  ·  541 reviews
The space between life and death is a moment.
But it will remain alive in me for hundreds of thousands of future moments.

One phone call. That's all it took to change Stephanie Wittels Wachs' life forever..

Her younger brother Harris, a star in the comedy world known for his work on shows like Parks and Recreation, had died of a heroin overdose. How do you make sense of such
Hardcover, 265 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by Sourcebooks (first published February 26th 2018)
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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Start your review of Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss
introducing: the runaway winner of the Most Personal Thing I Have Ever Put On The Internet contest!!! find this full review here if you dare:


At the end of 2014, I was in my junior year of high school, and I was in the deepest depression of my life. Before then and since, I’ve had bad days and dark spells, but none of it has ever been as bad as it was then.

In the winter going into 2015, I watched nine and a half seasons of the TV show Friends. I
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: addiction
"The Greeks called it a peripeteia: a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances. A point of no return."

Harris Wittels was a successful comedian. He was an acclaimed writer and producer for the show Parks and Recreation. He was also a heroin addict.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs is a devoted wife, mother, and writer. She had a brother named Harris. That was before it all. Before the overdose.

This book is extremely powerful and incredibly emotional, especially when you consider the opioid cr
Valerity (Val)
This book by Stephanie Wach was an especially moving, and wrenching read for me, as I feel I could have written a similar book 30 years ago about the sudden loss of my only brother who was 28. I too, was the mother of a toddler when I got the call that turned my life upside down forever. I related to many of the same feelings of wanting to know every reason for why things happened, being angry when seeing large happy families, and the difficulty of trying to hold family functions and holidays wi ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a difficult book, because the story it tells is real and so personal and tragic, but Wittels Wachs approaches it with humanity and even humor and I am glad I read it. It is a story of loss and of love and family, and I was deeply moved by how honest the author was.

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Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
The tragic and sad part in addiction and recovery literature, is that not everyone makes it. Stephanie Wittlels Wachs narrates the story of her brother Harris Wittels, a famous funny-man that was featured on several comedy television programs and gave those around him the gift of humor and laughter. On February 19th 2015, Harris died in his Los Angeles apartment from a Heroin overdose. "Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss" is Stephanie's sto ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, memoir, addiction
Oof. I've read a lot of memoirs of addiction which is admittedly a weird genre to be interested in but this is the only one I've read by the sibling of an addict and it was particularly devastating. It alternates between chronicling the events leading up to the overdose death of comedian/television writer/producer Harris Wittels and the life of his family after his death. It is a story of debilitating grief and the struggle to make sense of something senseless. Wittels Wachs often writes directl ...more
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-18
Wachs obviously loves her cherished younger brother and understandably thinks he's someone special. The story shows the different reactions to his addiction and death, the father withdraws, the mom becomes an activist, Wachs writes a book pouring out her very personal feelings. Addiction is a bitch and we see how Harris lying to himself and his family, destroying trust- a familiar story. Harris' overdose was news in social/media coverage since he's in the public eye, so there's a burden of publi ...more
M. (Inside My Library Mind)
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
More reviews on my blog Inside My Library Mind

Harris Wittels was one of the best known comedic writers of today. He is known predominantly for his work on Parks and Recreation, a show I adore and think is incredibly funny. Harris died of a heroine overdose and this is his sister's memoir and homage to Harris.
I really loved this. It's heartbreaking and incredibly sad, but it's also so beautiful. Stephanie managed to convey all the anger, sadness and shock of her brother's death and she managed
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book should be Al-Anon required reading. Stephanie perfectly describes the overwhelming mix of love, hate, hope, and helplessness the loved ones of an addict feel. It rang particularly true for me as an older sibling of a heroin addict, albeit one who is currently clean. It’s a unique position — part parent, part accomplice — that I believe generates a very specific type of grief based in very specific feelings of responsibility/familiarity. The Wittels family lived my worst nightmare. The ...more
Kimberly Dawn
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
For me, this was an unputdownable memoir on audiobook, beautifully written, and excellently narrated by the author. If you listen to this, you will soon feel as if you know this particular family, and feel the great love between this brother and sister duo, who in my opinion are equally funny and irreverent. Heartbreaking, yet at the same time such a good, honest portrayal of their family, and such a beautiful tribute of a sister to her much-loved, talented, younger brother.

Language Alert
Aug 09, 2018 rated it liked it
It sounds like her brother was an interesting guy but her hero worship of him got tiresome. I was also put off by her freak out over her daughter's minor hearing problem. My sister was born with a major hearing loss among other more severe issues, it was like her child was broken and it was offensive honestly. Just my opinion. ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this and highly recommend it if you a) loved Harris Wittels's comedy and/or b) are looking for a good memoir about grief, especially the particular grief of losing someone at a young age to something preventable.

I will add that a particular bonus appeal factor here was confirmation that comedians I like are good people, or at least have done nice things. I enjoyed reading about kind gestures from people like Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Kulap Vilaysack, and Aziz Ansari. (I know most of
Carrie Poppy
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cried multiple times. Incredibly powerful.
Aly Medina
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book has done more for me in my grief than any other self-help book. I spoke aloud to Stephanie all throughout the book: "Yes. Yes. Me, too." It felt like I had a friend sharing their pain with me and also sharing hope with me. I am grateful for the time spent with this book and am grateful it was written. ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Also lets stop finding a new witch of the week and burning them at the stake. We are all horrible and wonderful and figuring it out." -- Harris Wittels

This book was everything I expected it to be and more. It was absolutely gutting at times. What makes it awful is that you can't stop the outcome. You keep reading and hoping that Harris finally loves himself enough to get serious about his addition. But in the end you know that his family, friends, and coworkers are left to pick up the pieces.

Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful and generous book. I recognized so much of my own experience in her grief; and the parts I didn’t recognize as my own, I felt. There is so much truth here. Beautiful, funny, raw, real.
Ashley Holstrom
Stephanie lost her brother to a heroin overdose the day before her birthday. He was a writer for Parks and Recreation. They were best friends. This book is her story of the year after her brother’s death and the thirty years of life before.

Everything is Horrible and Wonderful is a lot like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, but even more heartbreaking. Marriage is one thing, but siblings are another. Wittels Wachs says over and over again that a sibling is a big part of your identity—t
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OMG, this shredded me and made me laugh out loud, thunderously. I am a huge fan of the TV show Parks and Recreation and was crushed when the show came to its finale while acutely aware of writer/producer Harris Wittels' untimely and devastating death. Wittles' vast amount of talent, tenacity, and imagination helped to create the show I loved and aided in its extraordinary success. The truth of the matter is this; addiction is a bitch, no matter how fortunate one may be, how much one i ...more
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This one isn't for everyone, but it was certainly for me. I'm a huge Harris Wittels fan, I've spent the past few years grieving the loss of my favorite person, and I'm a deeply sensitive soul who swings rapidly from happy to horrible to dark humor. I wish I'd thought to write my own "tragicomic memoir." Stephanie's writing is beautiful and true, and I recommend this to anyone going through a hard time and feeling alone. I hate that she had to write this, but I'm so grateful she shared it with th ...more
Barb Kehn
May 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Sorry to say, but this is the worst piece of self indulgent crap I have ever read. I was hoping to gain insight into addiction and how families deal with addiction issues - hello, Al-Anon! Instead, it was an in-depth account of how a self involved drama queen learned (?) to cope with a tragic death of a much loved brother. Not better for having read this.
Sharon May
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thanks so much to NetGalley, Source Books, and Stephanie Wittels Wachs for the opportunity to read this horrible and wonderful book - I literally sat and read it in one sitting.

This is the story of the Harris Wittels, a comedian who worked on such shows as Parks and Recreation. It's the story of his genius, of all who loved him, and his drug addiction and eventual overdose. Written by his sister, who got the call that he died 3 days before her wedding, she tells of the family struggles with addi
Willa Scanlon
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know why I picked this book up because my expectations were really low but wow was I wrong. I cried so much
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher -
A memoir of family, addiction, and grief from the sister of Harris Wittels, the Parks and Recreation writer whose death shocked the comedy world...
In 2015, Stephanie Wittels Wachs’s life was changed forever by one phone call. Her little brother Harris, a star in the comedy world and known for his work on shows like Parks and Recreation, had died of a heroin overdose. TMZ h
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a crucial read right now. It's about so much more than addiction, grief, a brother and a sister, what family is and means (and if it was just about that, it would be plenty and necessary.) It also asks us to consider our increasing cultural lack of empathy, our ability to sit in our armchairs or in front of our laptops and judge who is worthy of what—even if that "what" is death.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs peels back the layers of mourning, exposing how sometimes the most mundane momen
Brandi Johnson
This beautiful, heartfelt memoir about addiction was a tough but ultimately inspiring read. There is hope after grief. And that has to be enough.

Popsugar Challenge: A book with the word "love" in the title
Tessy Consentino
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Drugs are the worst.
David Collins
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Humblebragging is an art form. It's an art form not practiced widely here in Texas, where we're more skilled in traditional braggartry. Even people from Humble, Texas (the initial H is silent) are more likely to straight-up brag on themselves, their loved ones, and of course their state.

To honor Harris Wittels, the man credited with coining "humblebrag," I wanted to start this review with an example thereof. But I'm a shade humbler than most of my neighbors in Texas, and bragging of any type doe
Mariam I
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, memoir
It’s always so tricky reviewing a memoir. It’s just so confusing. Should you think of it as a piece of work, like all other pieces of literature and judge it as a text? Or should you treat it as a real and vulnerable reflection of someone’s life and so focus solely on the content and forget about the literature part? The former is too harsh and academic, while the latter is too lenient and honestly... even verges on carelessness. There is no right answer.

So unless you have only amazing things to
Scottsdale Public Library
I first heard Harris Wittels on my favorite podcast and found him absolutely, ridiculously hilarious. He was also a writer on a hit TV show, Parks and Recreation, and seemed to be a rising star. In this book his sister, Stephanie, details her recollections and her journey through grief after Harris died of a heroin overdose. Addiction seems to touch just about every family and reading his sibling's words was cathartic. This book is so inspiring and, of course, reminds us that everything is horri ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ugh ok @ my heart

Phew. This book got me. I work with death and dying and I was like oh yea okay I am so tough no worries I can read this.

Here I am in my parents cabin in a lil bunk bed ugly crying.

So I am not tough. And life is hard. And bad things happen. And people keep going. I admire Stephanie wittels wachs to write such a raw memoir about a topic that often gets skirted around or avoided completely (drug addiction).
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