Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002) 176 p.


As critically acclaimed as it is, I just could not get into this novel at all. It has three interweaving stories: one about a Jewish village in the late 18th and early 19th century, one about the same village in the lead-up to World War II, and one in the late 1990’s where Jonathan Safran himself travels to the Ukraine to try to locate the village with the assistance of Ukrainian lad Alex, who serves as narrator.

Every single one of these stories is dull and tedious. It’s heavily Jewish, and reminded me of all the worst and most sentimental aspects of Michael Chabon. In fact, this may be the most perfect example I have ever found of Chabon’s Epiphanic Dew Theory. Virtually every chapter in the story is overflowing with ham-fisted life and love and loss. Foer cannot restrain himself from trying to instill a deep profundity into almost everything that exists, and it’s an absolute drag to read. The final revelation about Alex’s grandfather was bleedingly obvious from the early chapters, and I wasn’t exactly astounded to discover that – shock horror – the Nazis were really evil and some atrocious things happened during World War II.

Thumbs down, won’t be reading any of his other books.