Where We Have to Go

Publisher: Emblem Editions
Named NOW Magazine’s Best Emerging Local Author

Where We Have to Go
is a luminous and sassy first novel about the last days of childhood in a family coming apart at the seams. At once wryly humorous and deeply affecting, this sparkling novel follows the irresistible Lucy Bloom as she searches for her place in the world.

When we first meet Lucy, she’s an imaginative eleven-year-old dreaming of a taste of freedom — and only beginning to grasp that all is not well between her parents. In the years that follow, Lucy’s journey to adulthood will see her question the limits of unconditional love, grow “criminally thin” as she stops eating, and discover complicated truths about what it means to be a young woman. Through it all, the central figure in Lucy’s life remains her mother, Joy, whose larger-than-life stories and boisterous voice belie a deep disappointment. As their relationship is tested again and again, Lucy comes to understand the resilience of the bonds that tie us to the ones we love.

Among the characters we meet are Lucy’ s father, Frank, a failed glamour photographer turned travel agent who’s never been out of the country; her best friend, Erin, an artist whose outspoken iconoclasm will inspire and challenge Lucy; and Crashing Wave, Frank’s lover, a former exotic dancer and the woman Lucy comes to imagine as the ideal of all that is feminine.

Set in Toronto throughout the 1990s, Where We Have to Go is a novel of self-discovery, family, and love. It introduces Lauren Kirshner as one of our most striking new voices, and reminds us that sometimes the most difficult journey is the one that takes us home.


Excerpt from Chapter 3:

Wednesday after school, Mom and I took a trip to the Salvation Army. I trolled after her as she pushed the cart, piling it high with “practical” items like military-style sweaters with sewn-in labels that read “Made Specially for You by Grandma,” no-name purple...
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1. Lucy Bloom’s sparkling voice is the book’s driving force, and it can be very funny, even when describing the more poignant or darker moments in Lucy’s life. Discuss the role that humour plays in the book. Do you see a difference between how Lucy and her mother, Joy, use humour? In what ways do Lucy...

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“[Where We Have to Go] wins the reader over with a masterful comic touch and a canny distillation of the painful experience of growing up different…. Kirshner has created a perceptive and likeable protagonist in Lucy. Her observations on growing up in a struggling Jewish family offer moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity…. Evocative and compelling….”
Quill & Quire

“An impressive debut from a gifted writer.”
NOW magazine

“Lauren Kirshner creates a first-person narrator you never stop rooting for. . . . [Where We Have to Go] highlights Kirshner as a new novelist to watch. A very strong, original debut.”
— Zoe Whittall, Globe and Mail

“Tenderly and meticulously rendered. . . . This novel is well worth reading. Lucy’s voice is smart and strong and clear, and like the young author who created her, it deserves to be heard.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Canadian authors excel at the precocious female protagonist, and Kirshner's character is a worthy addition to the bunch.”
— Chatelaine
“Lucy's circumstances are enough to break your heart, but they'll also make you bust out laughing — Kirshner's wry humour will see to that.”
Canadian Living
“Kirshner has a lot of talent that occasionally reaches sublime heights, plus her comic timing is spot on. Some of the characters in this novel, such as artistic Erin, are quite unique literary conceptions who are not only compelling but borderline enchanting. ” 
Edmonton Vue Weekly
"[Where We Have to Go] is a novel about resilience, the human urge to overcome sorrow, trials and tribulations... Lauren Kirshner has created a world that is believable, touching and a reminder that the journey through life, while not always pleasant, can always get better with time, growth, and understanding."
— Owen Sound Sun-Times

"Combines rich and vivid characters with evocative imagery to tell a compelling tale of adolescence. . . . Kirshner’s whole cast of artfully drawn characters maintains consistently compelling voices. . . . Kirshner uniquely captures with levity and humour the familiar (and painful) experiences of growing up different."
— The Varsity

"Deeply emotionally resonant, Where We Have to Go celebrates the very real triumphs and tribulations of teenage years with understanding and love without letting the characters off the hook for their choices. You’ll recognize yourself and those you love while getting to know the brilliantly drawn characters unique to the pages of this book."
— The Advent Book Blog: Great Books Recommended by Great People

“[Lauren Kirshner is] fast emerging as one of Toronto's most talented new authors....”
— Toronto Star