Skip to main content

Cannonball Read 2 #38: Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything Is Illuminated is ostensibly the story of a character named Jonathan Safran Foer who travels from his home in America to the Ukraine to try and trace back the roots of his family and find Augustine, the woman who rescued his grandfather from the Nazis. However, it is mostly told through the eyes of Alex, a young Ukrainian whom Jonathan hires to be his translator for his trip. Alex writes up a description of their journey together (along with Alex's blind grandfather who is their driver and the "Seeing-Eye Bitch" Sammy Davis Jr. Jr) through the Ukrainian countryside. Alex's portions are written in the style of a person for whom English is a second language and the thesaurus is a dear friend--they are stylistically hilarious, and (particularly in the beginning when he first starts writing) I laughed aloud at some of his descriptions. Intermingled with Alex's travelogue are snippets from the novel Jonathan is writing about his Ukrainian ancestors and their lives in the village of Trachimbrod (which is all very whimsical and fantastical, rather than historical), and Alex's letters to Jonathan, discussing Jonathan's critiques of his sections and Alex's ideas about Jonathan's.

I loved this book despite myself. When I first started reading it, I found myself thinking "I know this is going to get sad and profound and whatever at some point, but it is SO HILARIOUS that I just don't care!" And I enjoyed it, not noticing at first when the tone started to change. However, it did start to get darker and sadder toward the end, and by the ending it completely broke my heart.

From reading comments on GoodReads, I suspect that this is a book one either loves or hates. If you are a person who wants things to be literal and linear and realistic, you should probably avoid this. However, if you like books that are a little more whimsical and weird and funny and sad, I highly recommend it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CR3 #30: The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith

I saw the movie of The First Wives Club before I read the book. It's a cute chick flick, in which scorned women take comedic revenge on their former spouses. They become better friends and everyone winds up happy in the end. I was somewhat surprised (though not much--the differences between film and literature are often wide) at how different the book was--I am used to changes in plot or small character changes (combining two characters into one, or perhaps changing to a more pleasant ending) but the major change here between novel and movie was the tone.

The story is basically the same; After a close friend's suicide, three middle-aged female friends get together and beginning reviewing their lives. They realize that much like their late friend, they have been screwed over by the men in their lives--the men used them to get to their high social and financial positions, then screwed them over both personally and financially. The three women decide to use their wits and their co…

CBR9 #5 Borgin Keep by Ron Ripley

I've read the entire Berkeley Street series, as well as the Haunted series, and I think this was definitely one of the better offerings. This time, former Marine Shane and his slowly growing band of willing (and unwilling) ghost hunting allies face their biggest challenge yet. While the ghosts of Borgin Keep are both very dangerous and very evil, Shane also must keep one step ahead of The Watchers, a ruthless and powerful organization who find him to be a threat to their shadowy goals.

As always, for me the best part are the characters. Shane and his ghost-hunting partner Frank (a former soldier/former monk) are joined once again by police detective Marie LaFontaine, who is a very tough woman determined to avenge a dead friend. I'm not as fond of Shane's girlfriend Courtney, but I understand her uses as far as character development.

The plot moves along quickly, and I found this book a little better fleshed out than a few of the previous ones in the series -- while I enjoye…