Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
Guys. You know how I said I’d read the Jason Reynolds book about two months ago? I was completely wrong, because I read THIS book in September, right before I saw him on his book tour. I’m backlogged THREE MONTHS in reviews.
I’ve mentioned polarizing authors before, and I can think of few who invite fights more readily than a mention of Jonathan Safran Foer. I cannot think of a single person who is indifferent to him—you either love him or you hate him. For the record, I really like his writing a lot. My favorite is still Everything Is Illuminated. It’s rawer and less polished than Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but there are moments of clarity and truth that just seemed less filtered and gimmicky than ELIC. That said, I was curious to see how Here I Am stacked up. I also had a bit of a time crunch, since The Chancellor and I got tickets to hear him speak about it. I finished with about a week to spare—thank goodness!
If you’ve read any Jonathan Safran Foer, you might be initially thrown off by Here I Am. The tone is somber and way more different than the sort of exuberance and immaturity that weave throughout the first two fictional works. The book centers on a family’s center that collapses just as an earthquake in Israel threatens to pull apart the Middle East. We glimpse the family saga in-depth through several perspectives, mainly the failing marriage of Jacob and Julia, while their sons try to cope with the idea of family and coming of age. I have honestly left a TON out of this summary, but it’s a dense novel and there is much to chew on.
My sister didn’t like this as much as I did. She did not feel sympathetic towards Jacob, and to be truthful, neither did I. But I found the story interesting enough that I was willing to forgive the faults in the story to keep going. Obviously, your mileage may vary. But the second half of the book is, in my mind’s eye, stronger than the first half, and the screenplay section towards the end is one of the most poignant parts of the novel. Warning: there is one section about masturbation that is so white-boy-literature it hurts. I did a lot of rolling my eyes during that part.