David's Reviews > Everything Is Illuminated

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
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's review
Apr 12, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, audiobooks
Read from April 09 to 12, 2012

Foer's debut is utterly fascinating before it seems to lose a bit of steam. Truthfully, this isn't quite a four-star book, but it's better than three. This is in large part due to the narrative of Alex, the Ukrainian translator for the fictitious version of Jonathan Safran Foer. The novel's Foer is a jewish young novelist on a quest to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis in WWII. Alex is his translator and his narrative is a gem. He is learning English as he goes, so his wrong wording or wrong conjugation is not only humorous, but spot on as I compare to my friends who were not born in America. He also loves everything he's heard and read about American culture, even if it is 10 and 20 years out of date. As he becomes "illuminated" through his new friend via letters, he becomes more solid in his language and more of a voice of reason.

The author uses his virtual self as a creative means of showing how silly we Americans can be in the eyes of the rest of the world. His vegetarianism is a good example. I have nothing against vegetarians, and appreciate the causes by which they avoid meat, but when visiting a part of the world to which this is foreign, hate the inconvenience when this is a non-negotiable lifestyle. The novel's Foer discovers this hardship of finding a meatless entree.

The structure, with about a half-dozen formats in at least three time frames, is inventive early on, but ultimately takes away from the central story after a while. It becomes more and more about the novel within a novel that Foer the character is writing, and this just wasn't as riveting. For creativity and effort, this is highly recommended.

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