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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss

  1. 5 out of 5

    emma

    introducing: the runaway winner of the Most Personal Thing I Have Ever Put On The Internet contest!!! find this full review here if you dare: https://emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.co... ----------- At the end of 2014, I was in my junior year of high school, and I was in the deepest depression of my life. Before then and since, I’ve had bad days and dark spells, but none of it has ever been as bad as it was then. In the winter going into 2015, I watched nine and a half seasons of the TV show Friends. I introducing: the runaway winner of the Most Personal Thing I Have Ever Put On The Internet contest!!! find this full review here if you dare: https://emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.co... ----------- At the end of 2014, I was in my junior year of high school, and I was in the deepest depression of my life. Before then and since, I’ve had bad days and dark spells, but none of it has ever been as bad as it was then. In the winter going into 2015, I watched nine and a half seasons of the TV show Friends. I do not remember a single second of it. I would just go to school, get home, put Friends on, dissociate, go to sleep, repeat. It was very bad. (The show, not the depression. I mean that was definitely not good, don’t get me wrong, but wow Friends is a very bad show.) Even when I wasn’t watching possibly the least funny show that manages to call itself a comedy ever in the history of time, I was still on the internet. I don’t really know what I did - I don’t have many memories of that time of my life. I know at some point during that time, I started listening to Serial. And something about the podcast format really clicked with me - maybe that I needed to do something else while I did it to stay focused. I don’t know. But it felt better than just putting garbage (and I do mean garbage) television on and staring at the wall. Soon I started googling tons of podcast recommendation lists, which were really in a renaissance then. Honestly I think entertainment sites profited off of articles about podcasts more than podcasts profited off of podcasts. But anyway. I saw one Vulture listicle on the best episodes of any podcast ever (isn’t it crazy that once upon a time there were few enough podcasts that that seemed possible? How times have changed), and it mentioned an episode of a show called Comedy Bang! Bang! that included a name I recognized: Bobby Moynihan, from SNL. I listened to it. And I loved it so much. It made me actually smile, actually laugh, when that seemed kind of impossible. I looked up more best episodes, and one name kept coming up: Harris Wittels. I listened to every episode of CBB with him on it. I read his Twitter feed. I looked up his standup. He quickly became one of my favorite comedians, at a time when my favorite comedians were, like, SNL cast members. I listened to an episode of Pete Holmes’ podcast where he was the guest, and he talked for hours about his addiction to heroin. Then, in February 2015, after just a month or two of him being an unexpected beacon of joy and laughter in what felt like my impossible-to-live life, he died. I don’t know Harris. I wasn’t his biggest fan or his most ardent follower. But he meant a lot to me, and his death hit me hard. I’ve listened to and relistened to his podcast appearances, watched his Vine compilations repeatedly, trawled his Twitter feed. I’ve seen Parks & Rec (which he wrote for and guested on) over and over, have fawned over the brilliance of Master of None (in which his role would have been immense, just weeks after his death). I’ve consumed a lot more comedy since I was 17, and become a lot happier, but Harris has never stopped meaning a lot to me. I’ve known this book was coming out since Stephanie Wittels Wachs promoted it on Comedy Bang! Bang!, and I’ve had it on my to-read list ever since, but I’ve never felt ready to read it. I knew it was going to make me very, very sad. Cry-level sad, which is ordinarily an impossibly high level of sadness for me to reach. But reach it I did. This is the single most heart-wrenching book I have ever read. Never has a page carried emotion like these ones did. It is real and raw and breathtakingly sad and somehow, still, funny. I read it, for the most part, in a day, swaths of it in public (yes, weepily). I stayed up till 2 a.m. to finish it. This is the first book to make me feel like I had to do that in a very long time. It was that level of unputdownable. My heart hurt the whole time. Stephanie Wittels Wachs is a brilliant writer. I felt this so hard (and I’m not a reader who feels hard constantly or easily). Like Harris, it’s a f*cking amazing, once-in-a-lifetime thing. I feel so lucky to have picked it up. And so glad I finally did. Even though doing so the day before my birthday made me spend it in a serious state of melancholy. Bottom line: Do not miss out on Harris Wittels, and do not miss out on this book. ----------- this was everything i hoped it would be and more. review to come / 5 stars ----------- reading this book (which i absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt will make me cry) in public is my version of living on the edge. ----------- rip harris wittels, who died way too young three years ago today. f*ck heroin.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Crumb

    "The Greeks called it a peripeteia: a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances. A point of no return." Harris Wittels was a successful comedian. He was an acclaimed writer and producer for the show Parks and Recreation. He was also a heroin addict. Stephanie Wittels Wachs is a devoted wife, mother, and writer. She had a brother named Harris. That was before it all. Before the overdose. This book is extremely powerful and incredibly emotional, especially when you consider the opioid cr "The Greeks called it a peripeteia: a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances. A point of no return." Harris Wittels was a successful comedian. He was an acclaimed writer and producer for the show Parks and Recreation. He was also a heroin addict. Stephanie Wittels Wachs is a devoted wife, mother, and writer. She had a brother named Harris. That was before it all. Before the overdose. This book is extremely powerful and incredibly emotional, especially when you consider the opioid crisis America is facing. If you are looking for a happy story with a nice, tidied up ending, turn back now. This isn't a story with a happy ending. This is a story about a sister who desperately misses her brother. She is angry at the addiction and the devastating impact it had on her family. Most of all, she is angry that her baby brother and best friend, Harris lost his battle to addiction and will never again be part of her life. This book will make your soul weep and your heart shatter. There are far too many lives that are being stolen by this ruthless, serial murderer - heroin. It's not fair - but then again, life rarely is.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    This book by Stephanie Wach was an especially moving, and wrenching read for me, as I feel I could have written a similar book 30 years ago about the sudden loss of my only brother who was 28. I too, was the mother of a toddler when I got the call that turned my life upside down forever. I related to many of the same feelings of wanting to know every reason for why things happened, being angry when seeing large happy families, and the difficulty of trying to hold family functions and holidays wi This book by Stephanie Wach was an especially moving, and wrenching read for me, as I feel I could have written a similar book 30 years ago about the sudden loss of my only brother who was 28. I too, was the mother of a toddler when I got the call that turned my life upside down forever. I related to many of the same feelings of wanting to know every reason for why things happened, being angry when seeing large happy families, and the difficulty of trying to hold family functions and holidays with such a huge hole in them going forward. Watching other family members battle the grief, guilt, and loss as you wither under your own grief. It’s sad that even with the programs and rehabs there are now that so many addicts are still lost. There appear to be several rehab attempts by Stephanie’s brother, that he was aware of the problem and had tried to get help. Granted, in our situation, there’s no TV show involved or heroin, but a generational history of alcoholism. And rehab? Back when my brother died that wasn’t really something people did unless you were wealthy or the court sent you. There wasn’t really such a thing as interventions or the TV program you could contact back then and I always wondered years later when I watched if it could have made a difference for us. If only it had been around back when he was struggling as a young father of 3. It still brings tears to my eyes if I watch the show and there is a young father on with similar addiction issues. It breaks my heart all over again. This was such a terrible loss for Stephanie and her family, and I know the devastation it spreads through generations after seeing the results of 50 years of alcohol addiction and death and grief in my own family. It took my grandfather who was living with us when I was around 7, my brother when I was 27, and my dad when I was 37. It just decimated an entire section of my immediate family, wiping out 3 generations. I’ve also seen the effects on my brother’s children and now grandchildren of them growing up without him and their grandfather in their lives. Addiction is addiction, and it ruins lives. The hurt is so widespread. I hope this book helps the author and her family heal some and find a bit of peace. An advance copy was provided by NetGalley, and author Stephanie Wittels Wach for my honest review. Publication date is March 6, 2018. Publisher - Sourcebooks

  4. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    This was a difficult book, because the story it tells is real and so personal and tragic, but Wittels Wachs approaches it with humanity and even humor and I am glad I read it. It is a story of loss and of love and family, and I was deeply moved by how honest the author was. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com This was a difficult book, because the story it tells is real and so personal and tragic, but Wittels Wachs approaches it with humanity and even humor and I am glad I read it. It is a story of loss and of love and family, and I was deeply moved by how honest the author was. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    The tragic and sad part in addiction and recovery literature, is that not everyone makes it. Stephanie Wittlels Wachs narrates the story of her brother Harris Wittels, a famous funny-man that was featured on several comedy television programs and gave those around him the gift of humor and laughter. On February 19th 2015, Harris died in his Los Angeles apartment from a Heroin overdose. "Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss" is Stephanie's sto The tragic and sad part in addiction and recovery literature, is that not everyone makes it. Stephanie Wittlels Wachs narrates the story of her brother Harris Wittels, a famous funny-man that was featured on several comedy television programs and gave those around him the gift of humor and laughter. On February 19th 2015, Harris died in his Los Angeles apartment from a Heroin overdose. "Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss" is Stephanie's story of a happy and supportive family dynamic and the haunting crushing grief that followed after her brother's death. This is also a story of acceptance, Stephanie's challenge to parent a disabled daughter and fight for change in the Texas legislature for insurance coverage supporting pediatric hearing loss. Also, her desire to honor her brother's memory and support the work of independent artists, by providing a creative space called the Rec Room in Houston, Texas. ** With thanks to the Seattle Public Library.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    Oof. I've read a lot of memoirs of addiction which is admittedly a weird genre to be interested in but this is the only one I've read by the sibling of an addict and it was particularly devastating. It alternates between chronicling the events leading up to the overdose death of comedian/television writer/producer Harris Wittels and the life of his family after his death. It is a story of debilitating grief and the struggle to make sense of something senseless. Wittels Wachs often writes directl Oof. I've read a lot of memoirs of addiction which is admittedly a weird genre to be interested in but this is the only one I've read by the sibling of an addict and it was particularly devastating. It alternates between chronicling the events leading up to the overdose death of comedian/television writer/producer Harris Wittels and the life of his family after his death. It is a story of debilitating grief and the struggle to make sense of something senseless. Wittels Wachs often writes directly to her brother throughout, recalling events and asking questions of him to which she will never get answers. It's a situation familiar to anyone grieving a loss. The loved one is gone but the habit of going to text him a question or dial his number to tell him a funny thing that happened is still there like a cruel type of muscle memory but also one that you never want to go away. She captures this so well in her almost stream of consciousness missives to her brother. For fans of Harris Wittels this is a must read, as it gives you a peek inside his brilliant comedic mind from the perspective of someone who knew him from the start. Heroin addiction is a terrible disease that doesn't care about your brilliance or your money or your beautiful, loving family. Harris Wittels' story is the perfect example of this. His sister manages to tell this dark story while still showing us the light that was in her brother and the light and hope that still exists even after such a tragedy. Pub Date: March 2018 * I received this ARC from NetGalley and Sourcebooks in exchange for an unbiased review*

  7. 4 out of 5

    Perri

    Wachs obviously loves her cherished younger brother and understandably thinks he's someone special. The story shows the different reactions to his addiction and death, the father withdraws, the mom becomes an activist, Wachs writes a book pouring out her very personal feelings. Addiction is a bitch and we see how Harris lying to himself and his family, destroying trust- a familiar story. Harris' overdose was news in social/media coverage since he's in the public eye, so there's a burden of publi Wachs obviously loves her cherished younger brother and understandably thinks he's someone special. The story shows the different reactions to his addiction and death, the father withdraws, the mom becomes an activist, Wachs writes a book pouring out her very personal feelings. Addiction is a bitch and we see how Harris lying to himself and his family, destroying trust- a familiar story. Harris' overdose was news in social/media coverage since he's in the public eye, so there's a burden of public judgement paired with public support. Harris was the Parks and Rec writer/producer and I'm a huge fan which was one of the reasons I wanted to read the book. I found the tragic, but not so much the comic promised in the title. three stars lifted to four for the honest portrayal of a family in crisis.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marija (Inside My Library Mind)

    More reviews on my blog Inside My Library Mind Harris Wittels was one of the best known comedic writers of today. He is known predominantly for his work on Parks and Recreation, a show I adore and think is incredibly funny. Harris died of a heroine overdose and this is his sister's memoir and homage to Harris. I really loved this. It's heartbreaking and incredibly sad, but it's also so beautiful. Stephanie managed to convey all the anger, sadness and shock of her brother's death and she managed More reviews on my blog Inside My Library Mind Harris Wittels was one of the best known comedic writers of today. He is known predominantly for his work on Parks and Recreation, a show I adore and think is incredibly funny. Harris died of a heroine overdose and this is his sister's memoir and homage to Harris. I really loved this. It's heartbreaking and incredibly sad, but it's also so beautiful. Stephanie managed to convey all the anger, sadness and shock of her brother's death and she managed to portray Harris in such a unique and extraordinary way. Because he really was a wonderful person and his sister was the right person to tell the world exactly that. She talks about dealing with grief and how it never goes away, about what it feels like to lose a sibling and to get such horrible news. This made me choke up throughout, especially because it made me think of my sister and it WAS A LOT. Super poignant and sad. In short: You will cry, but you will love the book just the same. 4.5 stars! Thank you to Edelweiss for the ARC!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    This book should be Al-Anon required reading. Stephanie perfectly describes the overwhelming mix of love, hate, hope, and helplessness the loved ones of an addict feel. It rang particularly true for me as an older sibling of a heroin addict, albeit one who is currently clean. It’s a unique position — part parent, part accomplice — that I believe generates a very specific type of grief based in very specific feelings of responsibility/familiarity. The Wittels family lived my worst nightmare. The This book should be Al-Anon required reading. Stephanie perfectly describes the overwhelming mix of love, hate, hope, and helplessness the loved ones of an addict feel. It rang particularly true for me as an older sibling of a heroin addict, albeit one who is currently clean. It’s a unique position — part parent, part accomplice — that I believe generates a very specific type of grief based in very specific feelings of responsibility/familiarity. The Wittels family lived my worst nightmare. The worst nightmare of many. And it played out exactly how we all imagine, which is terrifying, but also weirdly comforting. We’re not “future-tripping” as Harris would say. Our fears, tears and pleas are justified because IT DOES HAPPEN. I feel heard through Stephanie’s story and I want others to have the same experience. Also, being a huge Parks & Rec fan, it was great to have Harris’s humor weaved throughout. He was more than his addiction. All addicts are and it’s important to remember that and share those pieces with others. I clearly can’t say enough good things about this book, so I’ll just thank Stephanie, Harris, Momo, Bapa, and Mike for the catharsis. Oh, and I’ll end with this quote from the book because, all the tears. “Because a huge part of my identity is being your sister.” I received an ARC of this book, but was not asked to provide a public review .

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Dawn

    For me, this was an unputdownable memoir on audiobook, beautifully written, and excellently narrated by the author. If you listen to this, you will soon feel as if you know this particular family, and feel the great love between this brother and sister duo, who in my opinion are equally funny and irreverent. Heartbreaking, yet at the same time such a good, honest portrayal of their family, and such a beautiful tribute of a sister to her much-loved, talented, younger brother. Language Alert

  11. 5 out of 5

    Esme

    It sounds like her brother was an interesting guy but her hero worship of him got tiresome. I was also put off by her freak out over her daughter's minor hearing problem. My sister was born with a major hearing loss among other more severe issues, it was like her child was broken and it was offensive honestly. Just my opinion.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Renata

    I loved this and highly recommend it if you a) loved Harris Wittels's comedy and/or b) are looking for a good memoir about grief, especially the particular grief of losing someone at a young age to something preventable. I will add that a particular bonus appeal factor here was confirmation that comedians I like are good people, or at least have done nice things. I enjoyed reading about kind gestures from people like Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Kulap Vilaysack, and Aziz Ansari. (I know most of I loved this and highly recommend it if you a) loved Harris Wittels's comedy and/or b) are looking for a good memoir about grief, especially the particular grief of losing someone at a young age to something preventable. I will add that a particular bonus appeal factor here was confirmation that comedians I like are good people, or at least have done nice things. I enjoyed reading about kind gestures from people like Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Kulap Vilaysack, and Aziz Ansari. (I know most of those people have also done problematic things in their lives but just, you know, from a celebrity-adjacent memoir perspective...I liked that.) Anyway it's very funny and heartbreaking and raw. I was very moved by it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Poppy

    I cried multiple times. Incredibly powerful.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aly Medina

    This book has done more for me in my grief than any other self-help book. I spoke aloud to Stephanie all throughout the book: "Yes. Yes. Me, too." It felt like I had a friend sharing their pain with me and also sharing hope with me. I am grateful for the time spent with this book and am grateful it was written.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    "Also lets stop finding a new witch of the week and burning them at the stake. We are all horrible and wonderful and figuring it out." -- Harris Wittels This book was everything I expected it to be and more. It was absolutely gutting at times. What makes it awful is that you can't stop the outcome. You keep reading and hoping that Harris finally loves himself enough to get serious about his addition. But in the end you know that his family, friends, and coworkers are left to pick up the pieces. Ad "Also lets stop finding a new witch of the week and burning them at the stake. We are all horrible and wonderful and figuring it out." -- Harris Wittels This book was everything I expected it to be and more. It was absolutely gutting at times. What makes it awful is that you can't stop the outcome. You keep reading and hoping that Harris finally loves himself enough to get serious about his addition. But in the end you know that his family, friends, and coworkers are left to pick up the pieces. Addiction is not choosy. It will devour anyone it can get its claws into. Harris led a beautiful, full life that brought joy and laughter to thousands and thousands of people. People would go on to say that he was at the top of his game. Everything was going well for him. His family was crazy about him and supportive of his efforts to get clean. But heroin doesn't care about those things.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Regan

    What a beautiful and generous book. I recognized so much of my own experience in her grief; and the parts I didn’t recognize as my own, I felt. There is so much truth here. Beautiful, funny, raw, real.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Holstrom

    Stephanie lost her brother to a heroin overdose the day before her birthday. He was a writer for Parks and Recreation. They were best friends. This book is her story of the year after her brother’s death and the thirty years of life before. Everything is Horrible and Wonderful is a lot like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, but even more heartbreaking. Marriage is one thing, but siblings are another. Wittels Wachs says over and over again that a sibling is a big part of your identity—t Stephanie lost her brother to a heroin overdose the day before her birthday. He was a writer for Parks and Recreation. They were best friends. This book is her story of the year after her brother’s death and the thirty years of life before. Everything is Horrible and Wonderful is a lot like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, but even more heartbreaking. Marriage is one thing, but siblings are another. Wittels Wachs says over and over again that a sibling is a big part of your identity—they’re the context for your history, because they’re at your side from day one. When you lose them, you lose a part of yourself. She writes a lot directly to Harris, about how much she misses him and how much she hates him. She is honest. She is real. Grief is ugly. I will never have the right words for this book. It hurt my heart and made me laugh and then made me cry again. It’s beautifully written and devastating. ★ Note: I work for the publisher and I would love this book dearly even if I didn’t. From the Best Books We Read in March 2018 at Book Riot.

  18. 5 out of 5

    KC

    OMG, this book....it shredded me and made me laugh out loud, thunderously. I am a huge fan of the TV show Parks and Recreation and was crushed when the show came to its finale while acutely aware of writer/producer Harris Wittels' untimely and devastating death. Wittles' vast amount of talent, tenacity, and imagination helped to create the show I loved and aided in its extraordinary success. The truth of the matter is this; addiction is a bitch, no matter how fortunate one may be, how much one i OMG, this book....it shredded me and made me laugh out loud, thunderously. I am a huge fan of the TV show Parks and Recreation and was crushed when the show came to its finale while acutely aware of writer/producer Harris Wittels' untimely and devastating death. Wittles' vast amount of talent, tenacity, and imagination helped to create the show I loved and aided in its extraordinary success. The truth of the matter is this; addiction is a bitch, no matter how fortunate one may be, how much one is loved, or how much money one has or makes, addiction quite possibly may be, dare I say, triumphant. This is a gut-wrenching yet at times hysterical telling of one sister's account of her most beloved and talented heroin dependent brother. Now I must go eat whole package of Twizzlers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cari

    This one isn't for everyone, but it was certainly for me. I'm a huge Harris Wittels fan, I've spent the past few years grieving the loss of my favorite person, and I'm a deeply sensitive soul who swings rapidly from happy to horrible to dark humor. I wish I'd thought to write my own "tragicomic memoir." Stephanie's writing is beautiful and true, and I recommend this to anyone going through a hard time and feeling alone. I hate that she had to write this, but I'm so grateful she shared it with th This one isn't for everyone, but it was certainly for me. I'm a huge Harris Wittels fan, I've spent the past few years grieving the loss of my favorite person, and I'm a deeply sensitive soul who swings rapidly from happy to horrible to dark humor. I wish I'd thought to write my own "tragicomic memoir." Stephanie's writing is beautiful and true, and I recommend this to anyone going through a hard time and feeling alone. I hate that she had to write this, but I'm so grateful she shared it with the rest of us.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Barb Kehn

    Sorry to say, but this is the worst piece of self indulgent crap I have ever read. I was hoping to gain insight into addiction and how families deal with addiction issues - hello, Al-Anon! Instead, it was an in-depth account of how a self involved drama queen learned (?) to cope with a tragic death of a much loved brother. Not better for having read this.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharon May

    Thanks so much to NetGalley, Source Books, and Stephanie Wittels Wachs for the opportunity to read this horrible and wonderful book - I literally sat and read it in one sitting. This is the story of the Harris Wittels, a comedian who worked on such shows as Parks and Recreation. It's the story of his genius, of all who loved him, and his drug addiction and eventual overdose. Written by his sister, who got the call that he died 3 days before her wedding, she tells of the family struggles with addi Thanks so much to NetGalley, Source Books, and Stephanie Wittels Wachs for the opportunity to read this horrible and wonderful book - I literally sat and read it in one sitting. This is the story of the Harris Wittels, a comedian who worked on such shows as Parks and Recreation. It's the story of his genius, of all who loved him, and his drug addiction and eventual overdose. Written by his sister, who got the call that he died 3 days before her wedding, she tells of the family struggles with addiction as well as Harris' personal one, as well as documenting the year after his death. You don't hear much about sibling grief and this book expresses it wonderfully - the feeling that her original family has been quartered and will never be the same. It is brutally honest in the way that everyone dealt with both the addiction and the grief and the struggle to still have to get up in the morning, deal with babies and life. Hopefully this book reaches the masses. While I may not personally have been familiar with Harris' work, his sister has written such a truthful, powerful book while somehow making you laugh out loud in places. Definitely 5 glowing stars and many prayers go out to this family as well as so many others dealing with this issue. They could all relate and benefit from this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Willa Scanlon

    I don’t know why I picked this book up because my expectations were really low but wow was I wrong. I cried so much

  23. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher - A memoir of family, addiction, and grief from the sister of Harris Wittels, the Parks and Recreation writer whose death shocked the comedy world... In 2015, Stephanie Wittels Wachs’s life was changed forever by one phone call. Her little brother Harris, a star in the comedy world and known for his work on shows like Parks and Recreation, had died of a heroin overdose. TMZ h I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher - A memoir of family, addiction, and grief from the sister of Harris Wittels, the Parks and Recreation writer whose death shocked the comedy world... In 2015, Stephanie Wittels Wachs’s life was changed forever by one phone call. Her little brother Harris, a star in the comedy world and known for his work on shows like Parks and Recreation, had died of a heroin overdose. TMZ had leaked the story of his death before Stephanie could even share the news with her mother, and thousands of people flocked to the internet to call her brother an idiot and to declare that he deserved it. Suddenly, Stephanie found herself at the cruel and bewildering nexus of Facebook, celebrity, and grief. An extraordinarily thoughtful and moving meditation on grief, Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful combines a heartbreaking journey of loss with a compelling portrait of a comedic genius and a profound exploration of the love between siblings. In beautiful, sentimental, yet starkly funny prose, Stephanie Wittels Wachs has penned A Year of Magical Thinking for a new generation of readers. Family is complicated but what Stephanie's family went through is beyond complicated. To have to fight the media and total invasion of privacy must be horrible and her writing about it is wonderful - I have zero love for my siblings so I cannot imagine what she went through on an emotional level. At times I wanted to laugh and cry simultaneously and I applaud her for writing such a wonderful memoir - good job!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    This book is a crucial read right now. It's about so much more than addiction, grief, a brother and a sister, what family is and means (and if it was just about that, it would be plenty and necessary.) It also asks us to consider our increasing cultural lack of empathy, our ability to sit in our armchairs or in front of our laptops and judge who is worthy of what—even if that "what" is death. Stephanie Wittels Wachs peels back the layers of mourning, exposing how sometimes the most mundane momen This book is a crucial read right now. It's about so much more than addiction, grief, a brother and a sister, what family is and means (and if it was just about that, it would be plenty and necessary.) It also asks us to consider our increasing cultural lack of empathy, our ability to sit in our armchairs or in front of our laptops and judge who is worthy of what—even if that "what" is death. Stephanie Wittels Wachs peels back the layers of mourning, exposing how sometimes the most mundane moments are the ones that explode into grief. It also asks us to consider what it's like to mourn someone the public thinks they own and have a right to. Yet she also shares how life stubbornly pushes us forward, whether we like it or not. Several moments took my breath away and, sure, I was obviously in tears. I mean, come on. But I also laughed plenty. It's not often you read texts and e-mails—things we dash off a million times a day—as precious artifacts of what was lost and never will be again. But those were also where the relationship with her brother really came alive. Intimate but not overly so. It's simply the shorthand we all experience, based on years of in-jokes, trouble making, fights, forgiveness, clandestine smoking, hunger, guffawing, and love. This book is bigger than addiction, bigger than family, bigger than a sister and a brother. It's about the sorrow and thrill, disappointment and necessary optimism of being alive.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brandi Johnson

    This beautiful, heartfelt memoir about addiction was a tough but ultimately inspiring read. There is hope after grief. And that has to be enough. Popsugar Challenge: A book with the word "love" in the title

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tessy Consentino

    Drugs are the worst.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Collins

    Humblebragging is an art form. It's an art form not practiced widely here in Texas, where we're more skilled in traditional braggartry. Even people from Humble, Texas (the initial H is silent) are more likely to straight-up brag on themselves, their loved ones, and of course their state. To honor Harris Wittels, the man credited with coining "humblebrag," I wanted to start this review with an example thereof. But I'm a shade humbler than most of my neighbors in Texas, and bragging of any type doe Humblebragging is an art form. It's an art form not practiced widely here in Texas, where we're more skilled in traditional braggartry. Even people from Humble, Texas (the initial H is silent) are more likely to straight-up brag on themselves, their loved ones, and of course their state. To honor Harris Wittels, the man credited with coining "humblebrag," I wanted to start this review with an example thereof. But I'm a shade humbler than most of my neighbors in Texas, and bragging of any type does not come naturally to me. The closest I can get is to say that I know the author, and that I have adored her since my son introduced her to me about a decade ago. At the time, he was a musical theatre student at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and Stephanie Wittels, then about 27, was an adjunct acting coach helping out with stage productions. Or perhaps I can go a step further to say that I know someone who knows some of the hottest names in modern American comedy, someone who can get Aziz Ansari to write (or in this case recycle material for) a foreword. As much as I love Ms. Wittels Wachs (hereinafter referred to as "Stephanie") and her contributions to Houston culture, her memoir about coping with the death of her brother is a tad harder to love. In the chapters describing life after Harris's tragic overdose, in which she addresses her late brother in second person, nearly every anecdote leads to a variation on "You weren't here to (see/hear/say/enjoy/help with) some (person/thing/event/ceremony/expedition)." In the chapters describing interactions with the living Harris, his personality increasingly subsumed by Oxycontin and then by heroin, nearly every anecdote leads to "He failed rehab, and we were 1,500 miles away from him, busy with our own lives, and powerless to help him through the process." The repetitions of these themes is a very real part of addiction, and it's important for readers to know. But I find that it detracts from an otherwise well-written work of nonfiction. Like Harris, EIHaW is hard to love, but there is plenty in it to like. For me, favorite bits include Stephanie's depiction of her and Harris's father, Dr. Ellison Wittels, a very funny guy in his own right, who is absolutely devastated by his son's self-inflicted premature death. I also love the way she flavors the narrative with Houston landmarks such as residential streets in Meyerland, charming and overpriced bungalows in the Heights, the late lamented Laff Stop in River Oaks, Kenny & Ziggy's Deli, and (yum) Star Pizza. (She also mentions a visit to a tiki bar, but does not give its name; I would guess that it's the Lei Low, because it's not like this city is infested with tiki bars.) Stephanie notes early in the book that, before Harris even turned 18, the family would go to showcases and open mics at the Laff Stop, where Harris saw his favorite comics and participated as soon as he was of legal age. Perhaps it's an ultimately pointless quibble, but she doesn't mention Houston's stand-up prophet Bill Hicks by name—or, if she does, I missed it. There's no index to check. Harris Wittels and Hicks had a lot in common beyond growing up in Houston in relatively functional families: They both became known for a transgressive brand of humor, smoked way too much, and died way too early (albeit more mysteriously). She also notes early on that Harris developed his addiction to painkillers because, as happens with thousands of Americans each year, he had chronic back pain. In the remainder of the memoir, however, the issue of his physical pain never arises. The emphasis returns to Harris's failed attempts at sobriety and romantic relationships, but never to what got him started down his road to perdition. Also missing are any helpful sidebars about what modern science refers to as addictive personalities: How did Harris get hooked so easily, and find it so difficult to kick the habit, while Stephanie was able to give up smoking for good? What about her own consumption of prescription medications like Ambien? Even more than her coping/not coping with the loss of her brother, I admire Stephanie's courage and candor about her own teen years and early adulthood. Although she was never a troublemaker as a student at HSPVA, a talented but otherwise normal kid with a tightly knit secular Jewish family, she reveals here some youthful dabbling in drugs and sex that could have resulted in big trouble. Leaving the teaching profession certainly made it easier for her to put those stories in print, along with a few hundred f-bombs. It made me imagine a scenario in which, should she try to go back to teaching, some principal or HR director would wave this book in her face and say, "Are you sure you can be a good role model for our students?" Just adding a conclusion here, since I had to save the review yesterday with a rather abrupt ending. After initially giving EIHaW three stars, I'm officially awarding it an additional star—not because it's on par with other four-star books I've reviewed here, but because I want to keep up the average for Stephanie's sake. Bonus trivia & H-Town name-dropping exercise: I now possess autographed copies of Stephanie's book and Jennifer Mathieu's YA novel Moxie, which I recently reviewed on Goodreads. They not only know each other well, but a few years ago they both appeared in segments of a small-budget production of The Love Show assembled by Tamarie Cooper. This happened during the interregnum between the collapse of Infernal Bridegroom Productions and the birth of Catastrophic Theatre. Jennifer read her essay on why she loves teaching middle-schoolers: to wit, middle-schoolers love and hate more intensely than any other creatures on the planet. In one comedy sketch, the five-foot-nothing Stephanie played the wife to a six-foot-six Walt Zipprian (an amazing writer in his own right), and it was possibly the cutest pairing I've ever seen on any stage (strange as it is to put the words "cute" and "Walt Zipprian" in the same sentence).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mariam I

    It’s always so tricky reviewing a memoir. It’s just so confusing. Should you think of it as a piece of work, like all other pieces of literature and judge it as a text? Or should you treat it as a real and vulnerable reflection of someone’s life and so focus solely on the content and forget about the literature part? The former is too harsh and academic, while the latter is too lenient and honestly... even verges on carelessness. There is no right answer. So unless you have only amazing things to It’s always so tricky reviewing a memoir. It’s just so confusing. Should you think of it as a piece of work, like all other pieces of literature and judge it as a text? Or should you treat it as a real and vulnerable reflection of someone’s life and so focus solely on the content and forget about the literature part? The former is too harsh and academic, while the latter is too lenient and honestly... even verges on carelessness. There is no right answer. So unless you have only amazing things to say about a memoir, you’re pretty much doomed in your review. Whichever way you slice it, you’re either heartless or dumb, or some mix of both. ... and that’s about regular memoirs, that are usually just embellished versions of a pretty ordinary person’s life. Things get a lot more complicated when the memoir is about a semi-famous comedy writer and producer of one of my favorite shows (Parks and Recreation)... who overdoses on heroine... in the middle of his prime... and just pre his Hollywood big break. Suffice it to say, I feel extra horrible (pun intended, not intended?) about not liking this book. Even as I write this, a voice yells in the back of my head, exacerbated,”memoirs aren’t supposed to be liked, Mariam! They are raw and real expressions of someone’s life, not a cheap piece of entertainment!” And I get that, I really do. But I still can’t help but have multiple issues with this specific raw and real expression of someone’s life. First of all, this book felt a lot like (I can’t believe I’m about to say this)... moping. A good half of the book was spent in some variation of “and now you’re dead” or “maybe if such and such would have happened, you wouldn’t have died.” And I get that that’s what grief does to a person, makes them feel like they could’ve stopped the tragedy and caused some reversal of fortune in the deceased’s life. The logical and rational part of the bereaved’s brain somehow short circuits and plunges them into an endless abyss of sadness and what-if’s. They are caught in this loop of “if only I would have...” and “if only they would have...” until something happens to stop it, or doesn’t. The book felt like it was a cathartic experience for Stephanie, and she admits this in the final chapter. Only after she started writing compulsively for 4 to 5 hours a night did she start to come to terms with her brother’s death. “A huge part of what kept me going was writing this book. When the pain was too much to bear, I wrote it down and it kept me going. When I was writing it, I didn’t think about what I was writing or whether it would be published or who would read it or how it would be received. I just wrote from the bottom of my guts about everything that was going on in this nightmare of a moment.” Weaved in between Stephanie’s regrets, resentments, and just plain anger about her brother’s death, and his addiction prior, are some really poignant thoughts about death. Such as: “I think about the day a person dies. How the morning is just a morning, a meal is just a meal, a song is just a song. It’s not the last morning, or the last meal, or the last song. It’s all very ordinary and then it’s all very over. The space between life and death is a moment.” The saddest part of this memoir isn’t the tragic fact of Harris’ death, but Stephanie’s real and solid belief that something could have happened to prevent it. That he could have loved himself more, or believed in himself more, had a better sense of self worth. That something could have happened to help him conquer his addiction. Sometimes in the middle of retelling a difficult scene in his sober-relapse cycle, she would say something like, “heroin did this to you.” And I know that’s just the grief talking. Addiction is so much more complicated than just the drug. Yes, the drug is fatal and toxic and triggers some insane combination of chemicals in the brain that make any and everything seem like a small price to pay for the high. Family, friends, love, success, life itself... these are all trivialities when placed against the high. This book had some profound thoughts about grief, life, death, love, but ultimately it felt a bit redundant and empty. It was undoubtedly a therapeutic experience for the writer, and I’m glad for that, because it certainly wasn’t one for me. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I heard the audiobook version of this book and Stephanie’s narration was every bit as dramatic and emphatic as you would expect from a theater and drama teacher, which... no surprises there, she is. When every line is as important and life-changing as the next, we end up with a “boy who cried wolf” type effect where every line is neither important nor life-changing and the story takes a counterintuitively monotonous and over dramatic effect. I’m a firm believer not all opinions have a right to be had. This is a free world, yes, but to even vaguely follow the laws of common decency and humanity, one cannot have an opinion about someone else’s pain, suffering, grief, or just plain emotion. That’s why this book was so hard to process... because I empathized with the emotion being felt, the absolutely horrible experience being experienced, but was not won over by the book itself. Death is as real and palpable as life itself, and the coming of it as expected as the plain fact that we are alive. But that doesn’t stop the unbearable pain and unspeakable anguish it causes when it happens. The experience of grief is as sad a person can get while still being alive. So it’s a tough subject to have an opinion about. Which is why I don’t. I tried to be sensitive to the feelings expressed in the book while still voicing some reserve about the book itself and the style, tone and manner in which it was written. Hope I was successful. Oh well.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Scottsdale Public Library

    I first heard Harris Wittels on my favorite podcast and found him absolutely, ridiculously hilarious. He was also a writer on a hit TV show, Parks and Recreation, and seemed to be a rising star. In this book his sister, Stephanie, details her recollections and her journey through grief after Harris died of a heroin overdose. Addiction seems to touch just about every family and reading his sibling's words was cathartic. This book is so inspiring and, of course, reminds us that everything is horri I first heard Harris Wittels on my favorite podcast and found him absolutely, ridiculously hilarious. He was also a writer on a hit TV show, Parks and Recreation, and seemed to be a rising star. In this book his sister, Stephanie, details her recollections and her journey through grief after Harris died of a heroin overdose. Addiction seems to touch just about every family and reading his sibling's words was cathartic. This book is so inspiring and, of course, reminds us that everything is horrible and wonderful. – Michelle V.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Ugh ok @ my heart Phew. This book got me. I work with death and dying and I was like oh yea okay I am so tough no worries I can read this. Here I am in my parents cabin in a lil bunk bed ugly crying. So I am not tough. And life is hard. And bad things happen. And people keep going. I admire Stephanie wittels wachs to write such a raw memoir about a topic that often gets skirted around or avoided completely (drug addiction).

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