29 November 2010

Everything is Going to be Great

Earlier this year I read Click, which had a number of essays from young women about the moment they each realized their feminist ideas or what it is like to be a young feminist.  One of my favorite essays was from Rachel Shukert (fellow Midwesterner).  Well, one thing led to another and Rachel, who is awesome (!), offered me a copy of her new memoir Everything is Going to be Great.

See, see!!???!?! She signed it and there's a little flower drawing.  (As I said, totally cool and awesome surprise that I was going to have to add later when I unpacked the boxes.)

Everything is Going to be Great chronicles Rachel's opportunity to find herself and "see" Europe.  On arrival in Vienna as part of a performance group (it's an avant garde piece, and that's not an understatement), she finds that her passport hasn't been stamped allowing her to remain in the EU indefinitely.  So, after the play's run is finished she goes to stay with a friend in Amsterdam.  Because Europe will definitely be wonderful, and glamorous, and it will just make everything in her life fall into place.

And things spectacularly do not go according to plan.

Rachel and I are quite a bit alike in some ways - dark hair, dark eyes, parents who want you to be safe no matter what - but particularly in the way we can both invite the oddest things to happen.  Rachel undergoes some cringe-worthy situations: she starts dating an older Viennese man (and gets a surprise under the covers), she winds up at what turns out to be a very weird orgy while looking for an inexpensive dentist in Amsterdam, she works handing out fliers to convince people to attend low-brow comedy shows (including standing outside the Anne Frank house), she dates a guy in Amsterdam who, as it turns out, was stepping out on his girlfriend/fiancee (I've dated one of those losers).  Did I mention the play?  She has to wear a hat that looks like poop (as someone who does like theatre, I have to admit that the play made no sense to me).  Through all of this, Rachel maintains a wonderful sense of humor and optimism (even though it may not look like humor and optimism at the time).  She makes all of her side-steps and mistakes genuinely funny - there are hilarious asides, like the one where she invents a reason for why the Dutch really love Phil Collins.  There's even a cut-out "Rachel mask" so the reader, too, can have Rachel-like mis-adventures.

The book boils down to an all-too-human format: Rachel confronts her fears, her demons, her mistakes and learns from them so when her true European opportunity comes, she makes the most of the trip.  I was genuinely happy for her by the end of the book and that's not something that always happens for me when I read a memoir.  Everything is Going to be Great is an enjoyable, funny story about an aimless college graduate who finally realizes what she wants - and takes a roundabout way to get there (and I mean "aimless" in the nicest way possible).  Go.  Read.  Christmas is around the corner so you might think about adding this to a stocking or two.

Dear FTC: I received a review copy of this book from the author.

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