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Travel, and Self-Reclamation in Sheridan Jobbins ‘Wish You Were Here’

Sarah Biggerstaff

Sheridan Jobbins’ debut book, Wish You Were Here, is a travel-memoir, that contains elements of comedy, romance, adventure, and drama.

Jobbins’ light, humorous style reads like a combination of Helen Fielding and Nick Hornby, with a quirky and uniquely Australian twist. The book is both extremely amusing and touchingly honest. The author does not hide any of her character flaws, and for this, it has to be said, she is very brave. Though reading the Sheridan in the book, one does not always like her, her inherent humanity, honesty, and vulnerability make her a deeply sympathetic character, that I think most people, irrespective of their age, or where they are in their life, will probably be able relate to her in some respect.

Sheridan

The book starts with Sheridan smashing all the crockery she possesses in a fit of despair, anger, and emotional dislocation. She has lost her husband, and partner of more than 10 years, when he reveals that he is no longer satisfied with their life together, and leaves. Shocked and grief-stricken, Sheridan seeks to distance herself from the life she lived with her husband, and get away from the places where everything is associated with the life she no longer belongs to. After a 10 year relationship, she understandably has some things to sort out, and there are some pretty big questions looming over her, namely ‘Who am I, now that I’m single?’ and ‘What the hell and I supposed to do now?’ Seeking answers to these and other questions, she embarks on an impulsive Thelma-and-Louise-style, cross-country, road-tripping adventure across America (but, you know, without the guns and driving off cliffs).

Wish-You-Were-Here-full

As a travel memoir, the book is surprisingly effective. Jobbin’s descriptions of the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde, among other special locations, are gorgeously evocative and thrilling, genuinely making you interested to visit these places more than any travel brochure could. As both protagonist and storyteller, Sheridan is a mercurial mix of the whimsical, the cynical, and the downright wacky. Her adventures, as well as her psychological journey, are at times hilarious, and at others unexpectedly moving. However, her relationship with a new love interest, which develops slowly and somewhat uncertainly throughout the story, is a little incredible, as there is as much conflict between them as there is chemistry.

This is not a major issue however, as the strengths of the writing, the narrative, and the message outweigh this shortcoming. I know, it’s a memoir, not a novel, but Jobbins’ style is so erudite that it reads more like fiction than any other memoir I’ve read. And that is certainly not a criticism, as it only makes the book more engaging, and all the more surprising when you remind yourself that it is about her actual experiences. Given that this is Jobbins’ first book, I think its humanity and humour indicate that great things can be expected from her in the future.

Wish you Were Here was released by Affirm Press in September of this year.

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Sarah Biggerstaff

Sarah Biggerstaff is a literary enthusiast, from Canberra, with a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of York in the United Kingdom. She is currently in her first year of an English PhD, the focus of which is British women’s fiction from the inter-war period, with a particular interest in feminist readings of these novels. Sarah hopes to one day write books, as well as review them, and in the meantime, is happy sharing her passion for books with others.

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