I didn’t really get all the hype over this book.
The story concerns young Jonathan Safran Foer (yes, the main character has the same name as the author), a young American Jew on a quest to uncover his family history in the Ukraine to research a novel he wants to write. Assisting him on this quest are Alex, his translator, Alex’s “blind” grandfather, and his “seeing-eye bitch,” Sammy Davis, Jr., Jr. There are shenanigans. I didn’t think many of them were too terribly interesting.
The parts with Alex narrating were spectacularly hard for me to read. He speaks in this fragmented English, full of malapropisms. I take one look at that page full of hyphens and unreadable English and I have to fight every instinct that urges me to just skip it.
There are flashes of brilliance, however. Foer’s account of the history of Trachimbrod, the shtetl from which Foer’s ancestors are believed to have lived, is often moving and well-told. The story of Brod, Foer’s great-great-great-etc. grandmother, was just so sweet and sad.
But I think the book was way over-hyped for me. People kept talking about how funny it was, and I didn’t laugh once. And people continually rave about how it was such a groundbreaking book and that it would usher in a new era of modern literature and stuff. To me, it just seemed full of cheap gimmicks and self-importance. Ooh, look at what I can do!! I’m inventive! It seemed more a master’s thesis on literary gymnastics than an actual novel.
Overall, my impression of the book was one big “meh.” After reading this one, I can’t say that I was all too eager to read any more Foer. But I did.