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Everything Is Illuminated
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1001 Monthly Group Read > March {2013} Discussion -- EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED by Jonathan Safran Foer

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Charity (charityross) Whoo hoo! Time to start discussing our latest group read!!

Stephanie "Jedigal" (jedigal) | 271 comments I got to catch up on some other titles this month, as I had read this one last summer. I tend to lose details after a while, so hopefully I can keep up with everyone's discussion. :o)

I loved this book. It didn't take me long at all to adjust to the style of the presentation, which I found very funny.

I felt the unreliable narrators represented all of the unreliable characters in the book, and the tale as a whole illustrated loving, fallible humans searching for connection to each other, God, and themselves.

From my review:
This novel rings so true! It is full of love and fallibility and humanity. It is ugly and beautiful at once, but mostly beautiful. Or maybe it is not MOSTLY beautifuul, but it leads us to stress and focus on the beauty, as "glass-half-full" people, and the faithful, frequently choose. In this it reminds me of the movie "Life Is Beautiful", which I also recommend.

Kirsten | 35 comments I loved this book and found it difficult to put down. It was hysterical in places but I also appreciated the growth of the characters and the way the tone changed as we got closer and closer to the climax of the story, which was gripping. A truly enjoyable read and one I plan to revisit in the future. I've also added the film to my DVD club list and can't wait to watch it soon!

Andrea | 90 comments I did not like this one. The middle/end of the story was entertaining and kept me reading but I didn't see anything to really praise about this one. I didn't get the humor. The first 50-70 pages really annoyed me. I just felt like the author was trying to make it funny and he thought that he was doing a really good job. After I got past that I started to enjoy the story line and I liked how we uncovered the different stories bit by bit but overall this was just so so to me.

Kendra (gamergirl897) I'm 10% along in this book, and it's hard for me to keep track of what is going on. I hope it gets better

Heather | 10 comments I am still working on this one, and while it may be one of the weirdest books I have ever read, I am enjoying it...sort of. I can't really decide what to think about it yet. If nothing else, this book has often made me laugh.

Jenni Hewitt | 4 comments I didn't not like it, but didn't really like it either. I thought the end was rushed, and I don't think I quite understood who people turned out to be. And the pages if all one sentence was just really annoying!

I saw the film years ago although I can't remember it, so will watch again and try and figure it all out!

Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) I finished it recently. Enjoyed the character of the translator, tho he was annoying at first - too much adolescent humor for my taste. I also enjoyed watching his development, and that of the grandfather (to the big reveal). I did not appreciate the shtetl scenes at all. Nothing funny there for me, nor engaging.

Rachel This might have been the most challenging book I've read since college, at least. I find it really difficult to get into books when I cannot really understand what is going on for the first quarter of the book. I wasn't sure if I liked it or loathed it at the beginning, but I really think it ended up being incredibly beautiful. Jonathan Safran Foer's writing is really gorgeous - I found myself wanting to highlight sentences like crazy and that is not usually me. I was just really touched by a lot of the very wise and beautiful things he was able to state very simply.

That being said, it was also very funny. I really enjoyed the humor that the translator brought to the book. I think he was a successful character for the book because he grew so much throughout the story. Not only did his English improve, which was realistic, but he also learned how to express his feelings better and come to terms with the truth of his life. If he had not grown, and simply remained a joke, I do not think the book would have had such resonance.

I think that this book will stay with me for quite a while. I finished it last night, but I feel like it is still working its way out of my head.

Rachel Kendra wrote: "I'm 10% along in this book, and it's hard for me to keep track of what is going on. I hope it gets better"

Kendra - I think if you can make it to 25% of the book, you will find it easier to get through. I also had a really hard time with the beginning and found it pretty annoying that I didn't know who all of these characters were or what was going on. But, I stuck with it and I'm really glad that I did. Good luck!

Stephanie "Jedigal" (jedigal) | 271 comments I agree with Anne, the shtetl scenes were not as good as the rest of the book. I think though, if memory serves, that once I caught on to the idea that they were fantastic in the way of legend or magical realism, I rolled with that portion of the book better, and looked for the truth underneath the 'facts' of the shtetl as portrayed in the narrative.

Agree also with Rachel, the growth of the translator as a person was really important.

My "real life" book club (which I have been much less active in for the past few years due to personal circumstances) has just celebrated a 10 year anniversary. After these years of discussing books offline and online, I continue to be intrigued by how differently things touch each one of us - regardless that the people in the discussion always seem to be thoughtful reflective readers. I love our variety, but admit that I'm also always a bit dismayed when any of my four or five star books aren't universally well-received. And I find my dismay funny too.

message 12: by Cherene (new)

Cherene I was actually surprised by this book. I just didn't expect where the story ended up at all. I would say the author has a wonderful imagination for stories (even when based around factual events). I even really enjoy the way he chooses to tell the story. The only downside of his writing, in my opinion, is his "voice." There is frequent moments, in this book, where I found lines that were ingenious. That were beautiful. The story was strong, the characters were strong, the way the story was revealed was strong... so if only he wrote without all these rare literary devices. Such as adding graphs, repetitive words, long drawn out sections of books, etc. Also, I got used to Alex's voice, but I can't say it didn't make it hard to get into the novel at first.

Miranda (magicandmystery11) | 6 comments I have a full review here:

but here are some of my thoughts. I was frustrated through the first half of the book because I found it difficult to figure out what was going on. I did think the translator's mess ups were extremely comical though. I am so glad that I didn't give up because it was worth it.

I felt like I was tricked to get to the end. I was led laughing along....until all of a sudden it wasn't funny any more. It was so sad, and beautiful at the same time.

It ended up being a fantastic book because it describes the depth of human experience. I was pleasantly surprised by the experience and wanted to read more of the author's work which is always a good sign.

Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) I had the same experience, Miranda.

message 15: by Michelle (last edited Apr 07, 2013 03:08PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments Cherene wrote: "There is frequent moments, in this book, where I found lines that were ingenious. That were beautiful. The story was strong, the characters were strong, the way the story was revealed was strong... so if only he wrote without all these rare literary devices"

Cherene, i agree 100%. there were glimmers of utter brilliance sparking here and there throughout this book, moments of near-perfection and utter truth. and all of it was bogged down in a morass of someone finding himself terribly clever.

Alex's voice started off hilarious, then wore out its welcome, then grew up a whole lot more quickly than felt honest to the character. i simultaneously want him to be a better person for his kid brother, and rolled my eyes at his posturing.

also, what was up with his dad? i'm not sure at all why Alex throws his dad out of the house at the end of the book. dad's drinking and vague bullying are certainly no great shakes after the revelations of what grandfather did during the war.

Anne, i likewise didn't like a lot of the shtetl parts of the stories. why was every woman in the village written as being either a 14 year old virgin or a wrinkled old widow, despite the fact that the male characters are having sex with both of those categories? the parts that i just can't get my head around, though, are all the moments depicting the violence against brod. these scenes were all presented in a casual way, when they weren't saying that her husband beating her was "an expression of his love." sofiowka is written as "making a woman out of her" earlier in the book, then being her attacker in the section describing those same events in "the first rape of brod" - the use of that earlier descriptor comes off awfully callous when he's later outright described as her rapist. and to top it off, if that was her first rape, does that make her marriage the second one?

message 16: by Ann (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ann | 3 comments I have to agree with the comments that the beginning is rather tedious and it takes some time to get used to the writing style (which somewhat improved in the end).
There are good things about the book - the story, the charachters, the growing of the characthers, the humor. Just the writing style was really hard - but I am glad I did not quit on the book, as I really enjoied the ending and it was an unexpected ending (at least for me).

Kelly | 25 comments I thought I would do something different and try the library e-book feature to borrow this one. So far, I am not impressed. I don't understand why there would be a wait? Anyway, I placed a hold a few days ago and I am waiting to be notified. I might give up and go pick up the hard copy at another local branch that shows it as in... It looks interesting, and I want to read it!

Kendra (gamergirl897) Does anyone think that Alex & Jonathan may be related?

Kelly | 25 comments That's an interesting thought, Kendra. I am only 42% done with this one, as there was a delay getting it from the library, but (view spoiler)

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