Synopsis: Jonathan is a Jewish college student searching Europe for the one person he believes can explain his roots. Alex, a lover of all things American and unsurpassed butcher of the English language, is his lovable Ukrainian guide. On their quixotic quest, the two young men look for Augustine, a woman who might have saved Jonathan’s grandfather from the Nazis. As past and present merge, hysterically funny moments collide with episodes of great tragedy–and an unforgettable story of one family’s extraordinary history unfolds.
Review: 5/5 stars
Note: I read this book a few months back, and I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite of the year. Maybe. So in honor of the end of the year-ish, here’s my review of my fave book from it.
This book was incredible. Truly. I’ve taken the last hour or two to just kind of continue with my life and try to absorb that experience. Because even though I’ve been reading this book for almost three weeks (bananas long for me), it still feels like one cohesive experience.
I just want to quote this book to you, if that’s okay. Just for a hot sec.
“There is no love–only the end of love.”
Between a grandfather and a grandson:
“(You have ghosts?)
(Of course I have ghosts.)
(What are your ghosts like?)
(They are on the inside of the lids of my eyes.)
(This is also where my ghosts reside.)
(You have ghosts?)
(Of course I have ghosts.)
(But you are a child.)
(I am not a child.)
(But you have not known love.)
(These are my ghosts. The spaces amid love.)”
Maybe quoting it wasn’t a good idea, because I want to give swaths of it to you all. I’ll end up trying to trick you into reading by including ever-lengthening passages.
These characters may very well stay with me for the rest of my life. Lovely Alex, with his love for his brother and his grandiose lies and his dashed dreams and his wonderfully terrible English (“Did you manufacture any Zs?”). The metafiction how-much-is-real Jonathan Safran Foer, dedicated to his notebook, staunch vegetarian. Brod and her 613 sadnesses, her love for everyone and everything and no one and nothing. The Gypsy girl whose heart broke for Safran, whom she did not love, and his books organized by the colors of their spines. The shtetl of Trachimbrod, its Trachimday and the Time of Dyed Hands and surname-initialed residents (Bitzl Bitzl R was my favorite).
This book sometimes gave me a feeling like my heart was swelling up. My hand twitched for a pencil or a Post-It while I read these lovely words, but I was always too absorbed and soon forgot what I was trying to remember to do. That feeling is why I read.
This was slow to start, and I almost – god forbid – DNFed it. Can you imagine? Even two-thirds in I contemplated three stars, sadly reminiscing on my vast love of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
I know this review isn’t of YA, or a book that’s “in” right now, or a new release. I still hope you guys read this and will consider picking it up, though. Because I want to live inside this book.
Bottom line: I don’t even know what to say. I so badly want you to read it. But if you do and you don’t like it, even when you get to the beautiful, beautiful last seventy-five pages, please don’t tell me.
I want to write like Jonathan Safran Foer can write.