Reading | Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am

My new resolution of reading more (and telling you about the books I read) is going well, and since my last post, I’ve finished another two books, amongst which is Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest novel.

I picked up this book at the book store on a whim because I’ve already read some of his books and enjoyed them. This book is a big novel (570 pages) that’s called Here I Am.

To start off with, let me tell you a little bit about my previous encounters with Foer’s books. The first book of his I read is called Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and is a beautiful novel that tells the story of a 9 year old boy (from his perspective) who’s lost his dad during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The second of his books I read is called Eating Animals and is a discussion on being vegetarian or vegan. I found that he has an extremely intelligent way of presenting the problem. Indeed, he’s not trying to convince anyone of anything, he mostly presents facts and his experience and lets the readers make up their own mind. I found the book beautiful, inspiring and very cleverly written.

But let’s get back to today’s business, his last novel, Here I Am. I started reading this book when I gave up reading the last novel I was telling you about The Power. Or I started reading The Power when I momentarily gave up reading this book. I’m not entirely sure but the fact is that I had bought and started reading two books that I wasn’t enjoying at all. But after a fair few weeks, I picked up Here I Am again and finished it very quickly.

My initial thought on the book was that the story was too dark, too sad, too complicated and with too many characters. But mostly my biggest issue was that everything was sad, and dark and I needed something a bit more uplifintg at the time. But actually, when I started reading it again, I found the story to be beautiful and within all that darkness there was beauty, hope and love.

If you’ve seen the movie What We Did on Our Holidays, I would compare the two by saying that this book is an adult, darker version of the same concept. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it ! It’s my all time favourite film. The story is quite simply magical ! The book and the film tell different stories but both are centred around the family, the various problem that surround family life (divorce, deaths, fights, growing-up, etc.) and the way we understand and choose to react to these problems as human beings, as adults and as children.

When it comes to the book, it’s the story of a jewish family in the midst of a divorce, a suicide, a terrible earthquake and an old suffering dog. As I was saying, it’s quite sad, and dark. But as the plot unfolds, you follow the various member of the family, the three boys, the mum, the dad, the grandparents, the cousins and even the great-grandfather. You live the same events through the eyes all of all the family members, children, adolescents, adults, elderly. Their perspective diverge and what you get is a beautiful human adventure that touches on subject that do or could touch anyone.

Jonathan Safran Foer is a master of words and he can shape sentence and ideas to make even the most tragic situation funny, for instance with the naive/innocent remarks of a boy who compares the old age of his great-grandfather and that of his dog.

As I was saying earlier, it’s a beautiful story of human beings and the way they react to common problems. It will not leave you full of joy, but rather full of question, deep reflexions, and probably full of hope too. And that’s why I’d recommend reading it. And if you really don’t have time to read a novel, watch that film What we did on our Holidays that’s a completely different story but that asks the same questions.

Have you read this book ?

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Macha