I finished listening to this one on audio on Friday morning. I have been thinking about reviewing it since. I loved it and I wanted to gush about it but when I tried to explain it to my husband he told me it sounded like, and I quote, “the stupidest book ever”. Not only that but I was worried about the spelling. There are a lot of words that I was more than happy to listen to someone else pronounce and figured I would have no clue how to spell them.
I’m going to wing it.
Everything is Illuminated is, cleverly or uncleverly, depending on the review, a young man named Jonathan Safran Foer and his trip to the Ukraine to find the woman who helped save his Jewish grandfather from the Nazis. Armed with only a photograph with a name that may or may not be accurate written on the back and a the name of his grandfather’s village and the villages nearby, Jonathan meets his guides. Alex, a young man with a very interesting vocabulary, will be his translator and the driver is Alex’s aged grandfather who is so heartbroken by the loss of his wife that he claims to be blind and even has a “seeing eye bitch” named Sammy Davis Jr. Hi-jinks ensue, the kind of hi-jinks that I found absolutely hilarious.
Example: Jonathan is a vegetarian and at every place where they stop to eat the waitresses ask, “He does not even eat sausage?” I don’t know why I found that so funny but I did.
The thing is that it is so easy to get caught up in the comedy of this first part of the book that you can forget what the book is actually about. The chapters alternate between the tale of the trip, told by Alex, and Jonathan’s writing, a fantastical story Trachimbrod, the town his family came from. While Alex’s stories are humorous in a comedy of errors way, Jonathan’s take on a magical quality. Then, Alex and Jonathan find Trachimbrod and discover that the whole town was completely destroyed by the Nazi’s. That’s not all, though. There are still stories about that horrible time, some secrets and surprises.
I couldn’t decide how it made me feel. You know, I just couldn’t tell if the gut wrenching parts were harder to handle or easier to handle because I had just been laughing about the deranged seeing eye bitch. What I can tell you is that the book in its totality was wonderful and it had an impact on me.