I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home

Jami Attenberg. Ecco, $27.99 (272) ISBN 978-0-06-303979-7

Novelist Attenberg (All Grown Up) meditates on the virtues and vices of an unscripted life in this sparkling memoir. In vivid essays, Attenberg recalls her couch-surfing years in her 20s, an assault she survived in college (“That moment remains a burning hot coal in my chest”), and teaching fiction in Vilnius, Lithuania, as a “newly moderately successful writer” in 2013. She writes of her decision to eschew tradition in pursuit of art and adventure, but how, at age 40, she began to envy her more grounded, married friends: “I did not want... the husband, the kids. But I did want that refrigerator full of food.” The tension between rootedness and wanderlust makes for brisk descriptions of locale: from Brooklyn on the cusp of gentrification, where she “had birthdays... and went broke several times,” to New Orleans, where she wrote “religiously, daily,” to a chapel made of bones in Portugal. Though her narrative flits around in time and space, her writing emerges as a bedrock from which to both grow and settle into. From the vantage point of 2020, she observes: “We are all homebound.... We can’t go back to the same way.... Everything is just sideways.” Tilted or upright, Attenberg’s story shines with wit and empathy. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.)