I’m horrible: I’ve had this book forever and read it months ago, but save for several notes scribbled in a draft, I never got around to finishing my review. And that’s not good, because I really enjoyed this book!
Everything is Going to Be Great is a travel memoir–some might say sex memoir–penned by Rachel Shukert. In her early 20s, fresh out of NYU, and living in New York City, Shukert had no money and no job prospects (boy, can I relate to that one!). She finally manages to land a non-speaking, non-paying role in a play that was being performed in Europe. She lucked out at customs because no one stamped her passport, which opened up the opportunity for her to travel freely throughout Europe as she pleased. After the play’s run, she went to Amsterdam to crash with a couple of friends. This is where all the “fun” began.
Shukert’s European “grand tour” involves a lot of drinking, one night stands, aimless wandering, recklessness, culture shock, heartbreak, and an alarmingly eventful dental emergency. Most of the time, it’s a complete disaster. Interspersed between the narrative are short guides and checklists to help you get by on your own European grand tour; they include titles like “Foreskin FAQ” and “Are You About to Be Sex-Trafficked?” Politically correct this book is not!
Shukert is a talented writer who isn’t afraid of superfluousness and self-deprecation. In one part of the book, she begins casually dating a much older man who she saw in the audience at one of her performances. She writes:
He was also quite a bit older than he had looked from the stage—the lines around his eyes deeper, his face more determinedly weathered, but artfully so, like one of those distressed handmade journals bought in overseas marketplaces by people who are very serious about properly poeticizing their self-absorption; for example, people like me…I wondered if Berthold might not serve the same purpose as such a journal—a sort of talismanic shortcut to authenticity, a leathery foreign object suitable for display in dimly lit cafes, telegraphing my literary ambitions, my credibility, my admirable commitment to tasteful pretension. I also wondered if there was a way to find out just how old he was, without sounding like a second grader.
Everything is Going to Be Great is many things: raunchy, mortifying, introspective, explicit, and funny as hell. One of the best things about the book is that Shukert doesn’t try to gloss over her mistakes and insecurities; instead, she writes about them in all their uncensored glory as she muddles her way through the consequences of some of her bad decisions. It’s refreshing, because I hate when people act like they’ve never had any real failures in life. Who hasn’t completely screwed up at one time or another? It’s part of learning and growing up.
I know that some people might be put off by all the swearing and explicit descriptions of sexual encounters in the book. Seeing as how I am a fellow aficionado of the f-word and am fazed by few things, I thought it was great. How I would’ve loved going off on my own European adventure in my early twenties. Granted, I’m still in my twenties and I still fantasize about going off on a European adventure of my own when I can scrape together enough money. But since I’m a socially-awkward almost-30-year-old, I fear that my own European grand tour would be more Eat, Pray, Love-y (minus the praying and loving) than anything else. Depressing!