I couldn’t even begin to explain this book, so I’ll cheat and give you the jacket description: “With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man– also named Jonathan Safran Foer– sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war, an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.
As their adventure unfolds, Jonathan imagines the history of his grandfather’s village, conjuring a magical fable of startling symmetries that unite fear, guilt, memory, and hope, the characters in Everything is Illuminated mine the black holes of history. As the search moves back in time, the fantastical hstory moves forward, until reality collides with fiction in a heart-stopping scene of extraordinary power.”
Everything is Illuminated is as beautiful and entrancing as its title. Practically every sentence is meaningful and thought-provoking enough to sustain an hour-long meditation. It’s just stunning and so intelligent. And yet all that powerfulness is perfectly balanced with humor and levity. It never takes itself too seriously, even in the moments when it deals with utterly central issues of existence. It’s hard to believe it could be so funny and so powerful simultaneously, within the same scene, the same sentence.
I was really blown away by this book. All the characters were wonderful. The juggling of the multiple storylines, across very separate timelines, was effortless. The writing was like nothing I’ve ever read before. I’m thinking Jonathan Safran Foer might be a little crazy, but in an inspired way. It took me a while to finish this book because it was so packed with punch that I couldn’t really just whip through lots of chapters at one sitting; you have to go in small doses. It’ll be plenty to chew on for the rest of the day.
My only complaint was that there was a chapter with so much explicit sex that I personally thought it was rather gross; and it’s hard to keep the memory of that chapter away from the memory of all the other chapters. Which is a shame. But other than that, this was one of the best books I’ve ever read, like on the short list. It’s downright weird, and there’s some stuff I totally didn’t get. But it’s beautiful.
Lyrical award for being beautifully and poetically written.
ROFL award for excellent humor.
Illuminator Award for being very, very thought-provoking.
And the heretofore nonexistent adkjdbfff award for being just adkjdbfff.