There is so much creativity in the writing, for one thing. From the fact that Jonathan Safran Foer is himself a character in the book, to the huge chunks of dialogue all smooshed into a single paragraph (which shouldn't work, but does) to the eye-dialect written so well that I often found myself reading aloud just for the fun of it.
Here's a quote (from page 3, in the words of Alex--the Ukrainian translator) that will give you an idea of the dialect, the audacity, and the humor:
I will be truthful again and mention that before the voyage I had the opinion that Jewish people were having shit between their brains. This is because all I knew of Jewish people was that they paid Father very much currency in order to make vacations from America to Ukraine. But then I met Jonathan Safran Foer, and I will tell you, he is not having shit between his brains. He is an ingenious Jew.I can understand now why people talk about this book like they do...it leaves an impression, regardless of your ultimate opinion. There were times while reading that I was thinking I love this! So much fun! and other times when I was cringing at the irreverence: oo, a little too much...hope my book club can handle it. But neither impression lasts for long: just as soon as I'd almost had too much oddity, I was plunged back into fascinating humor or touching insight.
From page 78:
She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.This is a story of an American traveling to the Ukraine to research his ancestry; it is a story of Jewish heritage and oppression; it is a balance between characters and caricatures, old world and new world, past and present. I laughed and cried many times--by the end of the book the people inside were dear to me, even with all their quirks. Not your typical reading experience, this is a book to go to when you are in the mood for something unique.
Title: Everything is Illuminated
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Published: Harper Perennial 2003 (orig. 2002)
Read For: Book Club 1
My Rating: 4.5 stars