Thrumming along underneath all this, animating the book, is Attenberg’s life’s organizing principle: the drive to become a writer. She brings to the subject her gifts as a novelist: a fierce impulse toward honesty, a companionably cranky voice and an interest in the complicated, bobbing and weaving ways in which people navigate their desires ... Rarely do contemporary writers allow themselves to speak so freely about their careers; more commonly we see a lot of disaffection about the idea of ambition itself. Attenberg’s objectives, her pride and her desire fill every page of this book. I, for one, found it a relief. She has the writer’s fine-tuned sense of her own place in the literary cosmos ... I Came All This Way to Meet You is at its most affecting when Attenberg follows the darker thread of her own experience ... My main complaint about this one is structural: I Came All This Way to Meet You is arranged as a memoir in essays. This is not automatically a bad thing, but recently too many writers (and editors) have seemed to use this format as a way to dodge the exigencies of actual storytelling ... Her voice and her frankness lead the way through what can sometimes feel like a maze — but the satisfactions are thick on the ground, and we follow. And when we are finished, we hold in our hands the promised ending, the book itself.
[Attenberg's] distinctive, personable voice, which shines on social media and in her writing-focused newsletters, gets a full-on outing here, with intimate glimpses of her youth ... This is a book of journeys: she road-trips on book tour; she lives in Seattle, in Manhattan, in New Orleans; she goes to Portugal and Sicily and Hong Kong, and on family trips to the East coast. But the most tangible and pleasurable journey is the one in which she describes discovering her voice, her yearning for agency, and the myriad ways in which she achieves that desire ... That knowing humor flavors her memoir ... pretty much all the anecdotes involving her family — people for the most part so clearly warm and inquisitive, interested and committed — left me wanting more of their stories as well as more of hers ... a book about the making of writer in the best possible way — accessible, funny, illuminating. It’s a book about kindness and grief, joy and forgiveness, failures, challenges, mistakes, and hope. It’s also a terrific ode to good art and true friendship. ''Books are your love language,'' a friend tells Attenberg. Which, as far as I’m concerned, makes I Came All This Way to Meet You one hell of a terrific love letter.
I don’t mean it as a criticism when I say that Attenberg’s book has an untidy, artless structure. Yes, its narrative, which moves repeatedly back and forth in time, is often in danger of seeming repetitive, and perhaps it comes with one too many Zoom meetings ... But such restlessness reflects its subject matter ... Her cheeriness – her absolute disdain for self-pity – only serves to make the sad parts of her book seem the more plangent ... Parts of this work do border on self-obsession ... She’s very funny, and it’s this that makes her marvellous.