Part memoir, part stand-up comedy routine, Annabelle Gurwitch’s “Wherever You Go, There They Are” delivers a witty portrayal of her oddball, largely dysfunctional family.
You might know Gurwitch, who is speaking Nov. 15 at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, from her long stint on TBS’ “Dinner and a Movie” or as Marisa Tomei’s friend Katy in the two-part “Cadillac” “Seinfeld” episode. But after reading “Wherever You Go, There They Are,” you will feel like part of Gurwitch’s family.
From the imaginary friend who persuades a young Gurwitch to do her homework and brush her teeth to the make-believe younger sister who is conveniently always away at boarding school in Canada, you realize all the world’s a stage for this eccentric group of kinfolk. Sometimes the genealogy is hard to follow, and the instances of tax evasion and bootlegging seem statistically high for one family.
But it doesn’t matter if you remember which side of the family Uncle Sam is on, or how exactly the Mobile, Ala., cousins are related. It’s all one big, happy (if not meshuga) mess of Southern Jews who love their gumbo as much as their gefilte fish.
I have to admit that Gurwitch’s seemingly abusive use of the asterisk had me shaking my head, wondering why these constant notations weren’t part of the main story or just left out altogether. An ah-ha moment comes on Page 202 when the author acknowledges that her note “has nothing to do with this story.” (*That’s what I’d been thinking all along!)
So I decided to take the asterisks for what they are (the parenthetical whispers of an overly enthusiastic dinner date who wants you to know EVERYTHING there is to know but doesn’t want the whole restaurant to hear). After a while, you are glad you are being let in on the secret.
Asterisks aside, by the end you will clearly be rooting for Gurwitch as she undertakes the daunting task of trying to find the right place for her aging parents, who would be more comfortable in a casino than a caregiving facility. In the words of one of the residents at the Miami rest home where they end up, “love wins,” and so does this humorous memoir.