Everything is Horrible and Wonderful

Last week I was in Vegas. And the sunshine, warm (er) weather than Chicago, palm trees and lack of any small people to manage made it an amazing couple of days. I shopped, I gambled just a little and I read. It was a good couple of days to tackle my TBR stack, but now I am up to my eyeballs in reviews I need to write!

I guess that’s a good problem to have. So last week I read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by the late Michelle MacNamara, Everything is Horrible and Wonderful by Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage and I See You by Claire MacIntosh.

It was a very good week. I’m super excited to share my thoughts on each and every one of them with you. First I’m going with Everything is Horrible and Wonderful by Stephanie Wittels Wachs. This one stood out for me. It’s a very poignant memoir and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the late Harris Wittels through the eyes of his doting sister.

From the Publisher:

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 a tragic end to a life of so much hilarious brilliance?

In beautiful, unsentimental, and surprisingly funny prose, Stephanie Wittels Wachs alternates between her brother’s struggle with addiction, which she learned about three days before her wedding, and the first year after his death, in all its emotional devastation. This compelling portrait of a comedic genius and a profound exploration of the love between siblings is A Year of Magical Thinking for a new generation of readers.

A heartbreaking but hopeful memoir of addiction, grief, and family, Everything is Horrible and Wonderful will make you laugh, cry, and wonder if that possum on the fence is really your brother’s spirit animal.

My Review:

I vividly remember watching the last episode of Parks and Recreation and at the very end, there is a dedication to Harris Wittels. It was a black screen with white letters that said, “We Love You, Harris.” Such a simple nod and I remember wondering who Harris was at the time. I think my husband knew what had happened and told me and I remember thinking, how tragic.

So when I picked up Everything is Horrible and Wonderful, and I realized that this is the story of THAT Harris, it felt familiar to me. And that’s really how this entire book read. It read like Stephanie is my friend and that Harris was my friend and I laughed and cried along with them, and felt the searing loss of Harris. Because tragic things happen everyday, but I think that people as gifted and unique as Harris only come along once in a great while.

Tragicomic is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as, “manifesting both tragic and comic aspects.” And while there is nothing funny about Harris’ addiction and subsequent overdose, just hearing the stories of who he was and the jokes he made and what he wrote when he was alive breathed such a comic and lightheartedness into what would otherwise be a heavy and sad memoir.

And I love that because it rings so true. Because things are never just sad or just happy. Life is and can be a horrible and wonderful experience every day, every minute and every second. I can’t begin to understand the loss that Stephanie and Harris’ friends and family feel every day. But I do feel that this book was an amazing tribute to him and their relationship as brother and sister.

There’s one point in the book when Stephanie shares that for her mother, it was easier to have had a son die of a heroin overdose only because he was a successful and functioning addict. That made it less embarrassing or shameful than if he was much worse off. And there is a lot of truth in that. And it’s ugly and we don’t want to qualify things like that, but we do.

But that’s the truth in this book. That Harris was an amazing comedy writer, on the cusp of his career blowing up and he lost it all. To drugs. And it could really happen to anyone.

Thank you to Sourcebooks and Netgalley for an e-galley of Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful. It’s an amazing read and released February 26, so you can run right out and get your copy!

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