Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Everything Is Going To Be Great by Rachel Shukert

Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand TourEverything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour by Rachel Shukert is the smart and witty telling of the author's trip through Europe (well actually through Austria and the Netherlands) on a non-existent budget.  The "grand" is definitely tongue in cheek - Rachel goes to Europe as part of an ensemble cast  performance in which she has an non-paying, non-speaking part and is forced to wear a "poo" hat.  And we're off .  .  .

Dedicated to her craft, Shukert is just happy to be part of a cast and thinks little about the fact that she will not be earning money while in Europe.  You have to admire her sense of adventure and willingness to take risks.  The risk-taking continues as she meets men while abroad and dives into relationships and casual sexual encounters.  As much as I could not imagine taking these risks, I couldn't help laughing at the predicaments in which she found herself.  When she loses a cap and needs emergency dental work, she lands herself in one of the most outrageous scenes of all with three Italian men.  Again, not something I imagine myself doing but her telling of the story is smart, irreverent and self-deprecating.

This may appear to be a travel memoir but you will find little in the way of not to be missed sights or historical highlights.  The book is really more of an anthropological study - Shukert shares observations about the essence of people in the countries she visits and examines their customs with her trademark humor.  I can still see the pre-Christmas scene in Amsterdam as the Dutch clamor to see Sinterklaas - the Dutch answer to Santa Claus.  Here is how Shukert describes Sinterklaas:

There is no Santa Claus in Holland.  Santa is jolly.  Santa is too fat to ride a bicycle, and his obesity is a drain on the national health care system.  Santa is financially generous for no logical reason.  Santa is completely antithetical to the Dutch way of doing things. 
Photo  Credit
In Santa's place is a tall, thin and fastidious bureaucrat called Sinterklaas who dresses like Torquemada, the leader and spiritual godfather of the Spanish Inquisition
Despite Shukert's derisive description of the Dutch holiday tradition that is Sinterklaas, she heads out to see him arrive at the main train station on his feast day and is nearly trampled by the masses as they clamor for a sighting or perhaps a small piece of candy from Sinterklaas. While being trampled, she keenly observes the Dutch - her observations, like much of the book are insightful and irreverent. 

While not a traditional travel memoir, this book is a wonderful coming of age story as Shukert learns valuable life lessons and quite a bit about herself amid ill-advised sexual escapades and a near poverty existence.  Best of all, she keeps you laughing throughout!

Thank you to Erica at Harper Perennial for providing the copy of this book for review


  1. I won this book from a blogger who did not like it at all and wanted to give it away. I'm reading it in bits and pieces and started on the chapter in Vienna, which I found interesting and enlightening. Not a book I'd read from cover to cover in the traditional way as there are some parts I'd definitely skip, while others I found to be very relevant to who the author is.

  2. I have this one waiting for me...the description of Sinterklaas just bumped it up the pile a little bit!

  3. I'm hoping to read this one soon. Thanks for sharing your review - can't wait to get started!

  4. Even though I cannot say I agree with her observations on Sinterklaas (Santa Claus is supposed to be derived from Sinterklaas, not the other way around and in fact, Sinterklaas is the one time that the Dutch are generous :P - sorry, Sinterklaas is the one Dutch tradition I'm actually proud of) I think this might be a funny read.

  5. Hi Iris,

    I am sure many of her observations are completely off base but she does have a humorous way of presenting them which I appreciated. Btw - I have visited the Netherlands many times and love it there!

  6. Ha ha this sounds like a really really fun read. As someone who travels to Netherlands quite often I think I will have to read this!

  7. That's a great review of a book I would probably not think of reading. But it sounds like fun, so now I will give it a chance if I come across it.

    Your piece also reminds me of the funniest thing I have ever read (heard, actually), which is David Sedaris's essay about Christmas in Holland. It is called "Six to Eight Black Men" and it is in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. My family now has the tradition of listening to it every Christmas Eve. You can find videos of him reading it on YouTube. Hilarious.

  8. This book sounds great! I love travel memoirs and coming of age stories.

  9. This sounds like such a fun read! I love travel memoirs -- even if they're light on the historical sites, etc. -- and think I'd really enjoy this one. Thanks for a great review!