EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE AND WONDERFUL

A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss


As Seen on Late Night with Seth Meyers

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,

more …

As Seen on Late Night with Seth Meyers

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 A Year of Magical Thinking for a new generation of readers.

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.

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  • Sourcebooks
  • Hardcover
  • February 2018
  • 288 Pages
  • 9781492664109

Buy the Book

$25.99

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About Stephanie Wittels Wachs & Aziz Ansari (Foreword)

Stephanie Wittels WachsStephanie Wittels Wachs is a theatre artist who holds degrees from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the University of Houston School of Theatre and Dance. Her writing has been featured on Vox, Longform, Longreads, the Huffington Post, Fatherly, Mamamia, Babble, and Medium. She lives in Houston, Texas.

Praise

“Beautiful, funny, and epically poignant.”Sarah Silverman

“Unsentimental and at times even funny.”Bustle

“This remarkable and movingly told story will break and mend hearts.”David Sheff, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Boy

Discussion Questions

1. Harris Wittels was a successful comedy writer and comedian and had everything going for him. Stephanie Wittels Wachs describes her brother as funny, charismatic, and smart, not to mention loved by everyone in the family.  Harris was also a drug addict and at times, unreliable, arrogant, and selfish. Did this dichotomy surprise you? Is it hard for you to understand how one person could be so different at times?

2. Given the current opioid crisis in America, Harris’s story is not atypical. Did it surprise you that even though he was making plenty of money and lived comfortably, he started using heroin? Did hearing about Harris’s story put a human face on the opioid epidemic? Did it make you realize that it can affect anyone, even individuals who seem to have everything going for them?

3. Do you believe drug addiction is a disease, as described in the book, or a choice people make? Do you think rehab would have ever worked for Harris or do you believe the addiction was too strong?

4. Stephanie describes how she first heard about her brother’s death and says she was having a good day. Have you ever gotten bad news out of the blue that takes a seemingly good—or even normal—day, and changes everything? How did you deal with sudden devastating news?

5. Throughout the book, Harris’s family members have different reactions and use different coping mechanisms to deal with his death. Stephanie is raw and emotional and used writing as a form of healing. Harris’s mom became an activist, and his dad was often quiet with his thoughts and retreated.  Who do you relate to most when it comes to dealing with grief? Did reading about everyone’s experiences make it easier to understand how people deal with grief differently?

6. Everything is Horrible and Wonderful is such an oxymoron, but Stephanie explains that while her life was shattered by her brother’s death she also felt very blessed in so many ways (marriage, first home, first baby). Have you ever experienced deep sorrow yet happiness at the same time? Explain how that made you feel. What were the blessings that helped you deal with your grief?

7. Humor plays an important role in the book and in Stephanie’s life, growing up as well as in adulthood. Even in the midst of arguments she said her family always took a break for laughter. What role does humor play in your life and family?  Does humor help you through tough times in life?  Did the humor in this book make the story easier to read and digest?