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Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful

A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss
Length: 6 hrs and 52 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (18 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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's 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 The Year of Magical Thinking for a new generation of listeners.

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.

©2018 Stephanie Wittels Wachs (P)2018 Tantor

What the critics say

"Beautiful, funny, and epically poignant." (Sarah Silverman)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • KP
  • 2019-04-15

Mhm!

I’m in love with Harris Wittels! So, duh, I loved this book. If you have dealt with loss and/or grief, I think this is a very validating book. Plus....IT’S ABOUT HARRIS!!! ♥️

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in-depth insight into grief

good book. great insight into grief and a little insight into addition. although I enjoyed the book, I felt it dragged on and on about how she could have saved her brother. but that isn't possible. I wished so badly she could have recognized that earlier.

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  • A. S.
  • 2018-03-31

Wow. This is the truest story I’ve read of the baffling heartbreak that is addiction robbing a close family of a genius...

This book was for me so goosebump-inducing in its raw truth that I had to consume it in fits-and-starts. And the format of the book is brilliant as well and really left me inspired and hopeful for the author’s future creative/professional endeavors.
I was a big fan of Harris’s and his graduating class of comics such as Joe Mande, etc. But also having my own personal experience with opiate addiction and recovery from, as well as being the brother/son of same, I hesitated to check this book out. I worried it would be too hard/too real. That it would stir up sorrow and guilt and sadness. And while there was some of that, this book should be required reading for any family member (the addict included) who is in the midst of the chaos of addiction. This book does a perfect job communicating the helplessness on both sides of a serious drug addiction. And it also does what few other books on this topic do, which is reveal how opiate addiction in particular has spread insidiously into ever strata and facet of US society. Never before have we had the number of highly educated/seemingly-successful members of society with bright futures who simultaneously fight an internal struggle that can be fatal.
I normally don’t write reviews, especially with the difficulty of typing on my listening device (phone). But this book left me wanting to write the author, which i imagine would only be a burden.
Stephanie, you wrote a masterpiece, and I want to thank you for the perspective this lent me.

25 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Ay
  • 2018-02-28

Heartbreakingly beautiful

Stephanie Wittels Wachs has broken herself wide open and shared her would with those of us lucky enough to be exposed to her writing. I am in awe of her bravery and talent. My thanks to her for taking her tragedy and sharing it with the world. I feel forever changed by this book.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Leslie
  • 2018-03-28

Don't miss this book!

Would you consider the audio edition of Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful to be better than the print version?

I enjoyed the audio version because the author was such a great narrator of her story. She was very genuine - you could feel the emotion in every page.

What about Stephanie Wittels Wachs’s performance did you like?

Very heartfelt - she's an excellent narrator

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • CC
  • 2018-04-30

A meditation on grief

SWW’s book reminded me a lot of Joan Didion’s “year of magical thinking” - at times you’re hit with the feeling of wanting the author to move past their grief because the sadness is too much, but then you’re reminded that this is how grief feels. It’s a meditation on grief and I thought it was beautifully captured.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-04-13

A beautiful tribute to Harris as well as an honest depiction of losing a sibling to addiction

This book was beautifully told, gut wrenching and I recommend to anyone who has lost a sibling to addiction. Stephanie puts into words the struggle of loving someone with addiction and how relentlessly life goes on when a love one dies. How one phone call can change your world and navigating life without someone who has been a part of your core self your entire life.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Mollie D
  • 2018-04-13

Beautiful and heart breaking

Where does Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of my favorite books I have listened to in the last year. As someone who works in the field of Addiction and Recovery it gives a realistic and honest view of what it is like to love someone who is ill and trying to get better.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I listened to this book on my commute and finished it on my way to work and had to redo my eye makeup before going in to the office because I had been crying in my car.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Molly Searcy
  • 2018-03-19

Honest, hilarious, & heartbreaking

Stephanie Wittels Wachs beautifully captures the acute and long-term experiences of grief, loving an addict, and navigating family dynamics.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • SandSurfSun
  • 2018-11-16

The Horrible and Wonderful Truth has been spoken

I lost my baby sister 6 weeks ago to heroin. Stephanie's writing brought me comfort. Stephanie writes the exact way I think. She made me feel normal, that was I am enduring is just part of the grief process.

If you have lost a sibling or a loved one to addition, you need this book. You. Need. It.

I promise, you'll feel less crazy and less alone after listening to it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Alan Tenenbaum
  • 2018-04-24

Moving and raw

Powerful book narrated by the one person who could do it. Highly recommended. Grab some tissues.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Magee
  • 2018-04-12

Honest, phenomenal

After listening to Harris’s comedy for years, I started to feel like I knew him. To see what addiction does to someone you thought you knew helps immensely to put yourself in the shoes of someone who actually has lost a loved one to addiction.

As un-filtered as Harris presented himself in his celebrity, he was simultaneously a far more flawed, and far better person than most of us ever saw. You’ll find yourself furious with him on behalf of his family, only to forgive him a few chapters later when he makes you laugh, only to feel empty again knowing his specific brand of genius is gone.

Stephanie’s book is beautifully written. Harris’s comedy and honesty is conveyed all too well, making the tragedy of his death more miserable by contrast. But his strengths as a writer are mirrored by his sister, who successfully finds the absurd in the darkest moments.

On an un-emotional note, read dreamland too, which helps to convey the universal scale of the addiction epidemic. The two books complement each other well.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful