Today, we have a review from our external reviewer Chris and it’s an insightful one! Keep reading for the full review. You can find Chris on their blog: https://thisandthatbooksca.wordpress.com ! Without further ado, the review.
Everybody Here is From Somewhere Else is a follow-up to Jeff Wallach’s previous novel, Mr. Wizard (which is a book I reviewed 2 years ago and thought it was the best book I’d read all year https://breakevenbooks.com/book-review-mr-wizard/).
The synopsis of Everybody Here can be found in Simon Jacob’s song, titled Everybody Here is From Somewhere Else. While it is almost certain Mr. Wallach took his book title from the song, I like to think that Simon Jacob, upon reading this book, was so inspired by the humour, the messages of family, of connections to the past, and the impacts of where we live that he wrote a whole song about the book, which it deserves.
The book is billed as a standalone novel. However, readers will get a great deal more from it if they read Mr. Wizard first. That’s where you get to know the personalities and the main characters. You learn their quirks, their senses of humour, and their trials in life. That is where you get to know them as people. Then when you read Everybody Here, you’re meeting with familiar friends and faces, and you know more of their backstory, and the recurring mention of Mr. Wizard makes more sense.
In this book, we learn more about the brothers’ mother, Jenny. Rather than the unreliable storyteller with dementia and a penchant for not telling the truth we see her in a more nuanced light. We learn why she is the way she is, and that’s she’s not exactly lying, but engaging in the magicians’ trick of misdirection, which for her was a defence mechanism to help cope with some of the traumatic events of her life. She’s a much more sympathetic figure—and more rounded out as a person—that when reading about her, I realized she would be the type of person I’d want as a friend.
And that is one of the nice things about this book. The people come across as people you’d like to know. It is a slow-paced book. There are no action scenes. Indeed, the game of golf—possibly the most boring game ever invented and a close tie with baseball for boring 😉 —features heavily in the book (as does baseball). Yet the metaphors they build are important. And there are interesting people, there are small mysteries, there are puzzles to unravel, there are revelations and surprising reveals that draw you into the book (I particularly liked the story behind a ring that came full circle).
Another fun thing about the book are the numerous cultural references to movies, music, and books. I think the older you are, the more you’ll enjoy the book. I suspect someone in their early 20s might miss many of the references, unless they have parents who made them watch old movies and played “classic” rock at home (by the way, Mr. Wallach, Run Lola Run is NOT derivative 😊). There are questions answered here from the first book, such as the “identity”, and importance, of Mr. Wizard from the first book.
I did like the recurring theme that explored why people move away from all that is familiar to live somewhere else. My parents moved across an ocean to a new world. Picked up and left behind parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins to start anew in a strange remote land. Some of my siblings also leaped away from the familiar for unknown parts, and I haven’t exactly been stationary myself. So, I liked the explorations of how new places impact our lives and outlooks and despite geographical separations there are still things that connect us to previous places and previous lives, sometimes in unexpected and surprising ways. Many of the connections hit home for me, and in my later years I’m finding some things are coming full circle.
I enjoyed the trip this book took me on; I enjoyed getting to know some of the people in it better. You can read it as a standalone but do yourself a favour and read Mr. Wizard first. The second book will feel much richer because of that, and you’ll enjoy both more. Five out of five stars.
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