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Where We Have to Go [Paperback]

Lauren Kirshner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 16 2009
Named NOW Magazine’s Best Emerging Local Author


Where We Have to Go
is a luminous and sassy first novel about the last days of childhood in a family coming apart at the seams. At once wryly humorous and deeply affecting, this sparkling novel follows the irresistible Lucy Bloom as she searches for her place in the world.

When we first meet Lucy, she’s an imaginative eleven-year-old dreaming of a taste of freedom — and only beginning to grasp that all is not well between her parents. In the years that follow, Lucy’s journey to adulthood will see her question the limits of unconditional love, grow “criminally thin” as she stops eating, and discover complicated truths about what it means to be a young woman. Through it all, the central figure in Lucy’s life remains her mother, Joy, whose larger-than-life stories and boisterous voice belie a deep disappointment. As their relationship is tested again and again, Lucy comes to understand the resilience of the bonds that tie us to the ones we love.

Among the characters we meet are Lucy’ s father, Frank, a failed glamour photographer turned travel agent who’s never been out of the country; her best friend, Erin, an artist whose outspoken iconoclasm will inspire and challenge Lucy; and Crashing Wave, Frank’s lover, a former exotic dancer and the woman Lucy comes to imagine as the ideal of all that is feminine.

Set in Toronto throughout the 1990s, Where We Have to Go is a novel of self-discovery, family, and love. It introduces Lauren Kirshner as one of our most striking new voices, and reminds us that sometimes the most difficult journey is the one that takes us home.

Product Details


Product Description

Quill & Quire

A young Toronto girl blossoms into adulthood in Lauren Kirshner’s sweet and touching debut Where We Have to Go. Like adolescence itself, the novel contains some moments of awkward fumbling, but wins the reader over with a masterful comic touch and a canny distillation of the painful experience of growing up different. The blossomer in question is 11-year-old Lucy Bloom, a serious cat fancier and devotee of the furry extraterrestrial TV puppet ALF. Lucy spends her days trying to survive the marital foibles of her parents, an ESL teacher mom preoccupied with the Y2K bug and a father who divides his time between AA meetings and a dead-end job at a travel agency. We follow Lucy’s quirky path from puberty to first-year university. Kirshner, a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Masters of English creative-writing program, has created a perceptive and likeable protagonist in Lucy. Her observations on growing up in a struggling Jewish family offer moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity. During her parents’ trial separation, for instance, she knocks on a neighbour’s door and is greeted by an unexpected “Kabuki divorce redramatization”: a surreal mass of men and women packed into a sunken living room, all of them wearing identical red and black masks. Some of the book’s arch comedic barbs feel unlikely coming from such a young protagonist, and at times the writing is too self-consciously clever, as if Kirshner herself is channelling an adolescent’s need for validation. But in an affecting section about Lucy’s descent into an eating disorder as a teen, the author demonstrates a finely tuned control of her talents. As the girl reaches the stage at which her bones are visible through her clothing, her sense of humour measurably increases in bitterness. But eventually, all the loose ends in Lucy’s life move toward tidy resolution, and the reader is gently eased into an overtly poetic ending. Kirshner captures coming-of-age rites – from touching another girl’s breasts to the shame and alienation of high-school gym class – with just the right combination of embarrassment and wonder. The theme of survival that drives Where We Have to Go is an evocative and compelling one.

Review

“[Where We Have to Go] wins the reader over with a masterful comic touch and a canny distillation of the painful experience of growing up different…. Kirshner has created a perceptive and likeable protagonist in Lucy. Her observations on growing up in a struggling Jewish family offer moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity…. Evocative and compelling….”
Quill & Quire

“An impressive debut from a gifted writer.”
NOW magazine

“Lauren Kirshner creates a first-person narrator you never stop rooting for. . . . [Where We Have to Go] highlights Kirshner as a new novelist to watch. A very strong, original debut.”
— Zoe Whittall, Globe and Mail

“Tenderly and meticulously rendered. . . . This novel is well worth reading. Lucy’s voice is smart and strong and clear, and like the young author who created her, it deserves to be heard.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Canadian authors excel at the precocious female protagonist, and Kirshner's character is a worthy addition to the bunch.”
— Chatelaine
 
“Lucy's circumstances are enough to break your heart, but they'll also make you bust out laughing — Kirshner's wry humour will see to that.”
Canadian Living
 
“Kirshner has a lot of talent that occasionally reaches sublime heights, plus her comic timing is spot on. Some of the characters in this novel, such as artistic Erin, are quite unique literary conceptions who are not only compelling but borderline enchanting. ” 
Edmonton Vue Weekly
 
"[Where We Have to Go] is a novel about resilience, the human urge to overcome sorrow, trials and tribulations... Lauren Kirshner has created a world that is believable, touching and a reminder that the journey through life, while not always pleasant, can always get better with time, growth, and understanding."
— Owen Sound Sun-Times

"Combines rich and vivid characters with evocative imagery to tell a compelling tale of adolescence. . . . Kirshner’s whole cast of artfully drawn characters maintains consistently compelling voices. . . . Kirshner uniquely captures with levity and humour the familiar (and painful) experiences of growing up different."
— The Varsity

"Deeply emotionally resonant, Where We Have to Go celebrates the very real triumphs and tribulations of teenage years with understanding and love without letting the characters off the hook for their choices. You’ll recognize yourself and those you love while getting to know the brilliantly drawn characters unique to the pages of this book."
— The Advent Book Blog: Great Books Recommended by Great People

“[Lauren Kirshner is] fast emerging as one of Toronto's most talented new authors....”
— Toronto Star

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Lydia - Novel Escapes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Where do we go from Here is a thoroughly enjoyable coming of age tale full of quirky characters, humour and angst. This story shines a light on some of the darker realities of a faultering marriage from a child's perspective and the long lasting effects of such a tumultuous upbringing. This novel could have been much more grim but Kirshner handles the fine line between humour and somber so deftly that the serious issues never come across as being made light of, which is a testament to her writing and something I greatly appreciated.

Anyone who had ever felt self conscious as a child or teen, or felt themselves odd or quirky or an outsider or had ever held their hands over their ears to ease parental bickering will be able to relate to this novel. Lucy Bloom is a wonderful protagonist. She's so cute and quirky and sad that you can't help but be empathetic towards her and as I watched her life grew more complicated as she navigates her teens, I found myself cringing and wanting to scream at her and everyone around her. And then on the next page I would find myself chortling or with a grin on my face. It was so well written in this aspect that I loved the constant anticipation of what emotion I would feel next.

As an only child, Lucy is left to navigate her parent's marriage through infidelity, separation and reuniting. There is much in this novel that is heartbreaking, but I always felt undercurrents of hope. I continuously rooted for Lucy and her family all the way through this novel and wanted to shake her parents to keep their issues from her and to actually see what she was going through. I could never figure out where Lucy would end up in life and I loved that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful coming-of-age story Jan. 20 2010
By BookChick TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Meet Lucy. She's an imaginative 11-year-old whose parents are on the verge of splitting up. Her father is a failed glamour photographer and a travel agent who doesn't travel. He's also a recovering alcoholic battling his personal demons at weekly AA meetings. Her mother is larger-than-life, a former beauty queen in her native Bulgaria and a lover of the antique mannequins that represent their little family. As her parents continue to fight, Lucy begins to grasp that all is not well in her household, and when another woman is introduced into the volatile mix, Lucy and her mother move out of the house in pursuit of a better life. The story continues to follow Lucy and her family as they work through the pain of infedelity, the uncertainty of trying to become a family again, her grandfather's illness, anorexia and the inability to fit in in high school. We watch her grow up in the 1990's, and eventually she blossoms into a young college student with a new outlook on life.

"Where We Have to Go" is an absolutely beautiful coming-of-age story. In the beginning Lucy is a gawky girl on the verge of adolescence with no breasts to speak of and the habit of counting things to ward off bad events. This hint of her obsessive-compulsiveness develops into full-blown anorexia in her teen years when she realizes that she doesn't fit in at school. This part hit particularly close to home for me. I didn't have anorexia in school, but I certainly didn't fit in with the popular girls, despite my desire to. Reading this book brought all of that awkwardness back, along with a sense of relief that I am now past my teenage years and am a (relatively) well-adjusted adult. Lauren Kirshner manages to take those feelings of highschool aniexty and channels them into some great material.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh new voice Oct. 23 2009
By V Woolf
Format:Paperback
I loved the voice in this book; its authenticity, the rawness of emotion. Kirschner goes straight to the heart of adolescent experience with insight, a gentle humour, and an astute understanding of the complexities of the young woman's soul. A wonderful read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Where We Have To Go Dec 17 2009
By avid reader "Sandi" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Very interesting to watch her bloom and become aware of everything outside her home. She has a very sheltered way of looking at her surroundings. There is an insightful perspective on human nature. It shows how any one person can affect another person's life.
Thoroughly enjoyable!
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