Oh Man. This book has been on my radar for a few years now, since reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I really enjoyed. But it has incrOh Man. This book has been on my radar for a few years now, since reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I really enjoyed. But it has incredibly mixed reviews -- people seem to either really love it or really hate it -- and I was very afraid I'd be in the "really hate it" category and feel I wasted my time in reading it.
The first night I started reading (finally giving in to the call of this book because it fit a challenge, as is usual for me), my fears seemed to be confirmed. As a general rule, I try to read a minimum of 50 pages a night, but 38 pages into this one I stopped reading because I was tired and a little confused and felt like I was using too much brain power in order to understand what was happening. I figured I'd just end up disappointed and have to drag myself through.
If this happens to you, too... KEEP GOING! This book IS really difficult at first. The sections alternate between a very difficult to understand distant past with strange names and even stranger customs, and the present day which is narrated by a young, undersexed Ukranian tourguide named Alex who has a tenuous grasp on the English language and a fondness for his thesaurus that results in occasionally amusing more more often annoyingly difficult to understand descriptions of events with a gross overuse of the word "spleen" to mean "annoy". If this sounds incredibly obnoxious, believe me, it is.
But it gets better. The second night, I picked it up reluctantly (alright, just get through a few sections.. you can't get points if you don't finish it) but ended up reading more than my quota. I was disappointed when I noted the time and had to put the book down so that I could be coherent at work the next day. And it kept improving from there.
Alex's English improves along the way as he writes more (and you get used to some of his more interesting turns of phrase), and the historical sections come together and become more understandable as more facts are revealed. The two stories intertwine masterfully -- not at ALL in the way you expect them to, but it is still somehow satisfying.
On top of that, the modern day characters turn out to be so much more than they seemed to be at first, especially Alex and his grandfather. My full range of emotions was exercised while reading this book. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I was disappointed. There were a few questions I had that never got answered, but in a way I think the book is better because of it.
And while you initially believe that this book is about the adventure of the main character (who is also named Jonathan Safran Foer though most of the book is fictional) to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II, you will realize this is not at all the real story here. When I closed the book at the end, all I could think was "Wow".
I plan to see the movie, although many reviews I have read say that they failed to capture the "point" of the book in the film. But I'll be interested to see their interpretation, nonetheless. ...more
Judd Foxman's wife has left him, after he caught her sleeping with his boss. His father has died, and his family is sitting shiva for him, so they areJudd Foxman's wife has left him, after he caught her sleeping with his boss. His father has died, and his family is sitting shiva for him, so they are all "trapped" in the house together for a week ... and they are not exactly the best of friends. They all have their own problems and their own neuroses, as is true in any family. The story is mainly told as Judd's inner voice as he lives through this experience and comes to terms with what his life has become.
This was exactly the book that I needed to read at the time that I read it. It was a perfect mixture of pessimism and optimism for my enjoyment, and so many quotes (especially about love and family) from this book just rang true for me. It's a wonderfully awful (or awfully wonderful?) story about family dysfunction and love. But I can definitely see how it wouldn't be for everyone. If you prefer happy, heart warming stories, I'd stay away from this one....more
This is the tale of a time-traveling serial killer, the girls he murders, and the one who got away. The premise hooked me - I love time travel books iThis is the tale of a time-traveling serial killer, the girls he murders, and the one who got away. The premise hooked me - I love time travel books in general and this seemed like an intriguing way to use that trope. How will he be caught? Can the police link the crimes through time?
It wasn't quite a 5 star book for me, though, because I found the antagonist, Harper, to be really flat and unrelatable. I mean, I guess it's GOOD that I don't relate to a serial killer, but he just seemed ... one sided and not quite human to me, somehow. Even the worst people have some good quality, don't they? The author tried to give us some history and help explain his behavior but it didn't work for me. Plus he was already pretty messed up in childhood, it seems ... classic stereotypical signs of being a serial killer, random violence against small animals, etc. I thought maybe a little more originality would be nice.
And it did take me a while to really get into the book and understand what was going on. In a way, it was kind of neat, we were just thrown into the story with no explanation and no real introduction to the characters. But it did make it more difficult to like the book at first; after the first day of listening in my car I was worried I would be disappointed. But the rest of the book made up for it. And the ending was perfect -- talk about closing a loop!
For the most part, I liked the changes of narrators during the reading, but it occasionally became distracting. The girl who read for Kirby had an incredibly nasally voice and it drove me nuts every time she came on. I loved the reader for Dan, I think he got the character perfectly. There were parts of this story where I laughed aloud and other parts where I was crying so hard I considered pulling off the road for safety ((view spoiler)[ the dog dying, anyone?! OMG. (hide spoiler)])
And I thought they played up the time travel aspect quite well, even though WHY the house existed, and WHY the police didn't see the same things that Kirby and Mal did when they entered the home were never explained. Mal especially -- Kirby maybe you could say she was special because she shone, but Mal? Hm. (view spoiler)[And finally, I loved that Kirby and Dan never really figured out that time travel was involved. In the end, they could tell something weird was going on with the house, but I don't believe they really made the connection. It was just this weird thing that happened. They had a few clues -- the baseball card, the varying weather outside the house, Kirby not seeing Dan when she went outside, the old car driving by, the date on the pony -- but nothing really definitively pointed to it, and who would believe it even if it did? Harper was the only one who really knew what happened even in the end, and I think that adds to the greatness of the novel. (hide spoiler)]
It can get a bit confusing at times, like most time travel novels, so pay close attention to the dates! This was much more difficult in the audiobook version -- I found myself trying to take note of where I was on the CD so I could go back and compare dates from certain other chapters, which wasn't easy with an audio version. For this reason, I would maybe recommend the paper version if you are the type who gets confused easily with the jumping around in time.
But I highly recommend it - well done!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more