Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: General Fiction
Date published: 2003
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
After reading Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close last year (which is also an excellent book), Jonathan Safran Foer’s writing style intrigued me. While Everything is Illuminated is not in the exact same style per se, the tone has interesting similarities.
Everything is Illuminated is a unique and beautiful book that is initially confusing but ultimately fascinatingly touching. The story follows the protagonist, a young man named (like the author) Jonathan Safran Foer, who travels to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He hires a tour guide, Alex - a native Ukrainian who has not quite mastered the exact meaning of many words in the English language - and Alex’s grandfather. The book follows the story as it is happening from Alex’s point of view, contrasted with a revealing history written in Jonathan Safran Foer’s (the character’s) point of view, as well as letters from Alex to Jonathan. At the beginning the constant switching can be a bit confusing, yet once the reader understands where each piece is coming from the result is an incredible feat of storytelling that adds depth and emotion to the novel; as the story of Jonathan’s grandfather is discovered, the story of Alex and his grandfather is also revealed.
Everything is Illuminated delves into the idea of who people are, as well as how much work they put into how they want to be perceived by others. Though the book is very enjoyable, it is a bit heavy with mature content throughout, so it would likely not be suitable for younger readers or people who just want something fun and light. Yet for those who are looking for something different and interesting, Everything is Illuminated would be a wonderful option.
Review by Caitlin Mason, A&S '16