That’s Where You’ll Find Me
Simone van Zyl
TwentyOne Press (2011)
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views (9/11)
Finding yourself is an enlightening experience. For Eligh Reese, an eighteen-year-old high school student, and central figure in the new book, “That’s Where You’ll Find Me,” by Simone van Zyl, the need to begin his journey of self-discovery takes on a sudden sense of urgency. It all begins when his mother, who is raising him by herself, is killed in an accident when Eligh is a young boy of just seven years. “She was all I had, I was all she had.” With this bit of background, the reader sets off with Eligh on what proves to be yet another life changing experience in his young life.
Eligh’s quest is actually more about reconnecting with the person his mother had molded and nurtured than about finding himself. After his mother’s death, he knew he had lost his identity, but he just didn’t know how to regain it. The process for doing so is at the core of the story, and the device for implementing that process is a backpacking trek through parts of the U.S. and Europe. As the book’s back cover notes proclaim, along the way, Eligh “experiences hardship, elation, finds friendship, and encounters a host of eclectic characters.” Ultimately, described in what is perhaps the author’s best piece of writing in the book, the epiphany for which Eligh is awaiting occurs.
“That’s Where You’ll Find Me” is told in a chronological, journal format that pleasantly engages the reader all along the way. The author’s writing style is comfortable and conversational. But there is something about Eligh’s character, and the trek itself, that make the story seem not genuine. Eligh and his story have an almost Disney-like quality. He faces no true hardships or real danger. He experiences kindness, (indeed, it seems everyone he encounters is inexplicably kind to him) but he spends too little time in any one place to develop any legitimate friendships. And, the promised cast of eclectic characters is predictable and stereotyped.
Simone van Zyl’s “That’s Where You’ll Find Me” is an easy, pleasant read. And, that’s another thing. Finding yourself is not easy, and often unpleasant, so how can a book about this daunting pursuit be such? Perhaps books are like people; perhaps this book is simply in need of finding itself. I like the way the author writes. I hope her next book is her epiphany.