Ukraine with Everything is Illuminated

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“I attempted to be truthful and beautiful, as you told me to.”–Alexander, Everything is Illuminated

  • Here’s what happens:
    • Jonathan Safran Foer uses an author surrogate to journey to Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. In this pursuit, he meets our ambitious and curious narrator/tour guide, his surly grandfather, and his “deranged bitch” seeing eye dog–and of course, they end up learning more about themselves, their families, and each other than they ever predicted.
  • It’s good because:
    • Safran Foer writes that, “Humor is the only truthful way to write a sad story,” which of course is a beautiful and challenging task. He accomplishes just that in this awkwardly funny and important book. Narrated primarily by Alexander in poorly translated English, the cultural chasms between characters and the painful wounds of WWII are hilariously explored. I am positive I am not the first to rave about Safran Foer’s writing, however all the praise is undoubtedly merited.
  • Read if:
    • You want to laugh out loud at a book. I think that can be a tricky thing to do, to elicit actual laughter from an unknown reader who is more than likely reading silently to themselves.However, there were many points that I truly smiled or giggled to myself–even within the first few pages! And of course, this is a story about the effects of anti-semitism on a family and a country, which is not a traditionally funny topic, so the humor is deep, uncomfortable, and restorative without taking away from the gravity of the topic.

Up next (in 2017!): The Czech Republic with The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera!

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