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Here I Am: A Novel by Jonathan Safran Foer
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Here I Am: A Novel

by Jonathan Safran Foer

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English (16)  German (1)  All (17)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
This book took me an eternity to read and when I was done I felt I had only a superficial understanding of its characters and story. I love Foer's use of language, his cleverness never stops to amaze and amuse me, I guess that's why I stuck through it and gave it four stars. Once again I am amazed by how long and over written many of today's best books have become. Is it part of the new publishing financial model to not hire qualified editors to help our best writers achieve greatness? ( )
  deborahk | May 26, 2017 |
Foer has written a deeply moving novel that imagines a new Middle East crisis triggered by an earthquake in Israel. In the process, he gives a powerful portrait of what it means to be Jewish in America—it means many different things—and what it means to be a family—it means many different things. It left me with a new, more complex understanding of Israel, the ongoing effects of the Holocaust, and new hope that the conflict may be resolved with fairness and compassion for both Israelis and Palestinians. More than anything else, this hope is delivered by the tender portraits of characters created by Foer. (Brian)
  ShawIslandLibrary | May 26, 2017 |
23. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
published: 2016
format: 571 page hardcover
acquired: Library
read: May 3-16
rating: 4½

This novel made me so uncomfortable about my life. It's novel mainly about Jacob Bloch, a forty-something father of three boys in a strained marriage dealing with his parents and cousins; and also a book about being Jewish but non-religious. There are prominent literary ties to the Bible ("Here I Am" is Abraham's answer to God when God is about to ask him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Isaac is Jacob's father - in the novel he's Jacob Bloch's grandfather and a holocaust survivor. One of Jacob's sons is Benji.), and also to the Odyssey, with many journeys and many characters looking to get to different kinds of home.

Jacob is everywhere but here. He lives in a state of constant self-directed distraction, both to himself and everyone around him. I see this as an ADHD novel - although that's exactly what it is, but there are parallels. And it's tragic.

As I watch Jacob's life slip away, I started checking off the boxes with myself - 40-something, Jewish, non-religious, indecisive on fundamental things, and his inability to just focus and or just stand somewhere. The tragedy of the novel is Jacob's inability to ever say "here I am" and mean it. But, to relate to him, and watch things unfold in such a preventable, almost accidental, but yet totally unpreventable way, was kind of tough on me, reading. I would forget to separate myself from the book and spend the rest of the day trying to do everything Jacob didn't do. Than come back to the book and realize none of that helped.

Certainly, I liked this novel. I found it wordy, but it needed to be wordy, and that's part of how it makes it's affect. I think it's a terrific look into modern secular American Jewish life. It's a bit of a brick, but picks up speed as it captures the reader, or captured this one. Not a flawless masterpiece, but there something here. A recommended work for our era.
1 vote dchaikin | May 19, 2017 |
This is a tough one for me. JSF is an exceptional writer. The music of prose like his is the reason I read. His insights and observations are profound, even (especially?) when they are also hilarious. He has written an intensely personal book, almost an uncomfortably personal book. So the art and the honesty are here, but the story itself gave me pause.

As usual, this is a VERY Jewish book. Every action is overthought, every decision is obsessed upon, the Tevye like internal monologue on the struggle between our reverence for intellectual inquiry and objective truth and our inescapable compulsion toward honoring Jewish tradition (these things are always at odds in we Reform and Secular Jews) are part of everyday life. We can't forget the marvelous dystopian crisis either. The Jews love the dystopic. Floods! Plagues! Falling Cities! That is our jam. And of course at the heart of everything is the conflict over our feelings about Israel. This is real stuff. We don't make things easy on ourselves. It is this core of the book that I loved. This challenged me to think about things I don't always want to think about in the context of a debate with an spectacularly knowledgeable sparring partner. But knowledge and wisdom are very different things, and this book was short on wisdom. I spent the first 1/3 of this 571 page book desperate for someone to find a little wisdom. I wanted to smack every one of these people who had everything and rejected the idea that things that good are worth working for. The adults were too detached and too full of opinions (no ever asks questions, they just opine or spout facts at one another.) The kids are too clever -- small people in training to opine and fact-spout at others and never ask good questions. After the first 1/3, this book broadened and I really enjoyed where it went. Its funny, I just read a review from Ayelet Waldman, a writer whose work I detest (I have tried reading 3 books because I want to believe Michael Chabon would not have married this human echo-chamber, but each is worse than the one before) and she loved the entitled, whiny marriage dissolution portion and did not like the rest of the book. It appears that JSF wrote 2 stories intending the reader to connect the catastrophic destruction of a relationship with the catastrophic destruction of Israel. Readers however, even those who come to the material with different expectations and interests, are not feeling that connection at all and are just choosing up sides.

So in the end I liked this book a lot, but I wanted it to be more connected, more enlightening and not JSF's divorce apologia. You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you can still get a very good if flawed book. ( )
  Narshkite | Apr 4, 2017 |
A special thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This novel completely got away from me and I didn't want to continue with it. I did eventually finish but it took me a few months to get through this book because I always complete the books I have committed to reviewing.

Foer is a wonderful writer, he really is, which is why this book threw me for such a loop. I was enjoying the storyline of the dissolution of Jacob and Julia's marriage, well, I guess as much as you can enjoy being a witness to something so painful. The writing was raw, tender, and so good. It started to unravel anytime any of their three children came into the scene–are there really kids that are that precocious? Foer introduces a natural disaster which is incredibly distracting. He draws the readers attention not only away from Jacob and Julia, but manages to draw the reader right out of the book. He should have simply stuck with this storyline and left it at that. Not only would he have greatly reduced the number of pages (this is a whopping book at just shy of 600 pages), but the story would've flowed so much better. I literally felt like a dog chasing its tail. ( )
  GirlWellRead | Feb 25, 2017 |
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When the destruction of Israel commenced, Isaac Bloch was weighing whether to kill himself or move to the Jewish home.
Quotations
People are always mistaking something that looks good for something that feels good.
One can build a perfect home, but not live in it.
The vastness of their shared life made sharing their singularity impossible.
The Jewish American response to the Holocaust was "Never forget," because there was a possibility of forgetting. In Israel, they blared the air-raid siren for two minutes, because otherwise it would never stop blaring.
Once the ritually mandated window for a burial-in-one-day had passed, there was no great rush to figure out a solution. But that's not to say that the family was indifferent to Jewish ritual. Someone had to be with the body at all times between death and burial. ... The patriarch with whom they begrudgingly skyped for seven minutes once a week was now someone they visited daily. By some uniquely Jewish magic, the transition from living to dead transformed the perpetually ignored into the never forgotten.
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Langzaam verandert Hier ben ik echter van een onschuldig familiair verhaal in een verhaal vol kritiek op politiek, geloof een maatschappij. Vlak voor de bar mitswa van Sam, wanneer zijn familie uit het Midden-Oosten al op weg is naar Amerika, vindt er een verschrikkelijke aardbeving plaats in het Midden-Oosten. Een ware oorlog in het Midden-Oosten ontstaat en een cruciale vraag lijkt de laatste draad uit de familie te trekken. De Joden wordt gevraagd terug te komen naar hun eigen land. Jacob staat voor een belangrijke keuze.

Ook na de aardbeving blijft Hier ben ik overtuigend. Bijna ongemerkt wordt de toonzetting in het verhaal harder en gaat het geloof een belangrijkere rol spelen. Geleidelijk gaan filosofische gedachten en levensvragen domineren en komt Safran Foer tot de essentie van zijn verhaal: ‘We zijn versplinterde individuen die een versplinterde verbintenis aangaan in een versplinterde wereld.’ Ook in dit deel zet Safran Foer verschillende tekstsoorten naast elkaar. Met dagboekfragmenten, telefoongesprekken, WhatsAppberichten, dialogen in het virtuele Other life zet hij zijn verhaal kracht bij. Met een hartverscheurend slot eindigt Hier ben ik. Hij legt de vinger op de zere plek en beschrijft iets waar menig mens eigenlijk naar zoekt.
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